Algeria hostages killed as Mali conflict continues

Jan 18, 2013- After Islamist militants seized a gas plant in the Algerian desert on Wednesday, reports now say that some of the foreign hostages held have been killed. The Algerian authorities have yet to release official casualty figures.

The gas facility was seized after France sent troops last week to combat Islamist insurgents in neighboring Mali.

EU Foreign Ministers, who where holding a snap meeting in Brussels to discuss the Malian conflict, refused to comment. Only the Malian Foreign policy minister told reporters in Brussels that he believes there is a link between the Malian rebels and Algerian militants.

"For the last few years we have seen many hostages taken and this just proves that is an obscure jihadist forces that paddle with drug trafficking have permeated a whole region and I think that really shows what their true nature is", said Malian Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Tiéman Coulibaly.

Meanwhile, EU Foreign ministers agreed on Thursday to speed up the deployment of the EU military training mission to Mali.

"We agree to establish a EU mission to train and advice Malian arm forces and we appointed a French brigadier, François Lecointre as a Mission Commander. The first technical team for this mission will start preparatory work in Mali in the coming few days. We agree to accelerate our work to support the African military mission to Mali and we are offering financial support to it trough the African peace facility", said EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Last week France sent over 700 troops to fight the Malian islamists who seized the north of the country last spring. The unexpected French move received widespread international support.

The EU has so far refused any plans of taking a combat role in the conflict. However, French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius said that France is not alone.

"France may be the precursor, but I am expecting European solidarity. I am expecting from this meeting a very quick decision to send a series of European troops in order to train the Malian army. I am also expecting European countries to make efforts on the fields of economy and development and then I will hear what my colleagues are able to provide, because we have to keep in mind that all European countries are concerned with terrorism", said French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius.

EU development aid money was frozen when the jihadists took control of Northern Mali last spring. But funds could be released again if the country commits to an election roadmap, according to the EU.


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