WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2012
Hours before dawn, heavily armed Islamists target a bus carrying workers from the remote Tiguentourine gas field in southeastern Algeria to the airport at In Amenas.
A Briton and an Algerian are killed and the gunmen are repelled by security escorts before heading to the complex's residential compound, where they take hundreds of Algerian and foreign hostages.
The assault comes on the sixth day of France's military intervention against armed Islamists in Mali.
An Islamist group calling itself "Signatories in Blood" -- a combat unit led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who has recently been ousted from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), claims the hostage-taking and calls for "a halt to this aggression against our people in Mali".
A spokesman for the hostage-takers demands the army withdraw so negotiations can begin.
Thirty Algerian and 15 foreign hostages escape.
In the afternoon the Algerian army launches an assault on the gas site. Algiers defends the recourse to force, saying the Islamists had wanted to leave the country with the foreign hostages. Algerian news agency APS reports the army operation is over, but later says it just controls the complex's residential area, where most of the hostages are based.
Belmokhtar proposes that France and Algeria negotiate "an end to the war being waged by France in Azawad" (northern Mali).
Mid-morning, Algerian special forces launch their final assault, which turns into a bloodbath, in which hostages and militants are killed. Official media say 11 kidnappers killed their last seven foreign hostages before being killed by the army. The special forces managed to kill 32 kidnappers and to free "685 Algerians and 107 foreigners", according to the government.
Private Algerian television Ennahar and French-language daily El-Watan respectively report the discovery of a further 25 and 30 new bodies at the site.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian describes the hostage-taking as an "act of war".
The attack was carried out by 40 fighters from the Muslim world and European countries, mastermind Belmokhtar says, saying he is speaking in the name of the "mother" outfit, of Al-Qaeda.
The Islamists behind the assault threaten to stage strikes on nations involved in Mali.
Survivors returning home from the gas plant tell of their four-day-long ordeal, during which some of them were forced to wear explosives and others summarily executed.
International leaders lay the responsibility squarely on "terrorists", putting aside criticisms expressed at the outset over the Algerian army methods.
Thirty-seven foreigners of eight different nationalities, as well as one Algerian, were killed, Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal says, adding that five other foreigners are still missing. Some 29 of the 32 militants were killed and the other three arrested. They had entered the country from neighbouring Mali, Sellal told a news conference in Algiers.