The Algerian army staged a final assault Saturday, in an effort to end an Islamist militant assault at a gas station plant. A provisional death toll issued by the Interior Ministry on Saturday reported 32 militants and 23 captives had been killed in the three-day hostage crisis at a remote gas field. Over the course of the crisis, upwards of 685 Algerian and 107 foreign workers were freed. President Obama issued a statement Saturday saying he still wants a "fuller understanding" of what happened in the strike, but added that "the blame for this tragedy rests with the terrorists who carried it out."
The siege at Ain Amenas transfixed the world after radical Islamists linked to al-Qaida stormed the complex, which contained hundreds of plant workers from all over the world, then held them hostage surrounded by the Algerian military and its attack helicopters for four tense days that were punctuated with gun battles and dramatic tales of escape.
Algeria's response to the crisis was typical of its history in confronting terrorists, favoring military action over negotiation, which caused an international outcry from countries worried about their citizens. Algerian military forces twice assaulted the two areas where the hostages were being held with minimal apparent mediation — first on Thursday, then on Saturday.
"To avoid a bloody turn of events in response to the extreme danger of the situation, the army's special forces launched an intervention with efficiency and professionalism to neutralize the terrorist groups that were first trying to flee with the hostages and then blow up the gas facilities," Algeria's Interior Ministry said in a statement about the standoff.
Immediately after the assault, French President Francois Hollande gave his backing to Algeria's tough tactics, saying they were "the most adapted response to the crisis."
"There could be no negotiations" with terrorists, the French media quoted him as saying in the central French city of Tulle.