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Algeria (and Beyond) Coverage: Gas Plant Siege Ends with 23 Hostages, 32 Attackers Killed

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Saturday's Algeria (and Beyond) Coverage: Hostage Situation Continues at Gas Plant

2241 GMT: Egypt. Protesters have set a courthouse in Alexandria on fire after the suspension of the trial of six senior police officers for deaths of protesters during the 2011 uprising.

Young men threw rocks at police, who responded with tear gas. Two trucks that transport riot police was set ablaze.

Judge Mohammed Hammad Abdel-Hadi resigned from the case on Sunday, giving no reason. His resignation means a new trial for the officers accused of using excessive force.

Since President Hosni Mubarak was deposed in February, almost 100 police officers have been brought to trial on charges of killing and wounding protesters. All were acquitted or received suspended sentences.

2201 GMT: Algeria. The death toll from the attack and siege at the In Amenas gas plant is at least 81, according to a security official.

The new figure is a significant jump from the previous declaration of 23 hostages and 32 attackers killed, some of them when the Algerian military overran the remaining captors on Saturday. An Algerian official had warned earlier Sunday that the toll would rise as de-mining units and security forces went through the complex, which was raided on Wednesday.

2037 GMT: Algeria. A hospital source said 12 bodies held at a morgue in Algeria's In Amenas hospital, near the site of four-day attack and siege at a gas plant, are Japanese.

In Tokyo, a Japanese engineering firm said that 10 of its Japanese and seven of its foreign workers are still missing.

Two Algerian survivors, employed by the Japanese firm JGC, said nine Japanese workers were killed during the siege, which ended on Saturday when Algerian special forces overwhelmed the attackers.

2013 GMT: Iraq. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani have traded sharp statements, each blaming the other for an ongoing political crisis.

"The federal government...has increased the crisis through neglect and threats that have led to dangerous consequences," Kurdish Regional Government President Barzani charged. "Iraq has, for a long time, been going through a major crisis because of the neglect of services for citizens, and not implementing the constitution and agreements."

Barzani also backed "the legitimate demands" of demonstrators in mostly-Sunni areas of Iraq who have been protesting for weeks over discrimination, detentions, and anti-terror laws.

Al-Maliki expressed surprise at Barzani's statement, which he said "reveals a desire to hinder dialogue among the Iraqi people and components, and revive ugly sectarian strife". He asserted, "It seems that these factions do not like to see agreement between Iraqis."

1343 GMT: Mali. A spokesman for French forces said they are advancing towards the Islamist-held north.

"The deployment towards the north of the forces of Operation Serval, which began 24 hours ago, is on course with troops inside the towns of Niono and Sevare," Lieutenant Colonel Emmanuel Dosseur told reporters.

Niono is about 350 kilometres (220 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako and 60 kilometres south of Diabaly, seized on Monday by Islamists and then heavily bombed by French planes before it was reclaimed by French and Malian Government troops.

Sevare, about 630 kilometres (390 miles) north-east of Bamako, has a strategically important airport which could help serve as a base for operations further north.

1333 GMT: Algeria. An Algerian security official has said that de-mining squads searching for explosives have found "numerous" bodies at the In Amenas gas plant.

The official said the bodies were difficult to identify and it was impossible to determine if they were foreign hostages or those who had taken over the facility on Wednesday.

Ennahar TV is claiming from sources that 25 bodies were found, all of executed hostages.

Algerian media reports that, of the 30 attackers of the In Amenas gas plant, there were 11 Tunisians, 7 Egyptians, 5 Malians, 3 Algerians, 2 Canadians, 1 Niger, and 1 Mauritanian.

1133 GMT: Egypt. Four people are now confirmed dead and 12 wounded in the fighting between security forces and protesters outside the Shubra al-Kheima police station in north Cairo (see 1103 GMT).

An official in the Ministry of Health said the toll is expected to rise.

1103 GMT: Egypt. Violent clashes between civilians and police forces broke out late Saturday night in the working-class district of Shubra El-Kheima in north Cairo, after an officer accidentally killed a bystander during a police operation.

The officer was reportedly "chasing a drug dealer" when he fired his pistol in the air, killing a man with the stray bullet.

As news spread of the man's death, hundreds of angry residents attacked police forces in the area and blocked traffic. They then sought to break into Shubra El-Kheima’s Second Police Station.

An officer sustained multiple injuries while trying to prevent the crowds from storming the station, and a recruit was shot. Police used tear gas and fired rounds in the air to disperse the crowds.

1023 GMT: Kuwait. Travel writer Matthew Teller posts an overview of the difficulties of the bidoon (stateless) population, who have no citizenship or rights in the Emirates.

The Algerian Minister of Communications has said the current death toll of 23 hostages will be higher and will be confirmed later today.

1015 GMT: Algeria. British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the deaths of three British hostages have been confirmed in the attack on the In Amenas gas plant.

Cameron said three other British hostages and one British national are believed to have died.

0855 GMT: Yemen. Three US drone strikes have killed eight people in Marib Province, a tribal chief and witnesses said today.

One raid late on Saturday targeted a vehicle transporting four suspected insurgents in Wadi Abida, 170 kilometres (110 miles) east of the capital Sanaa.

"The bodies of the four dead were charred," the tribal source said, adding that only the body of Ismail bin Jamil, a local Al Q'aeda leader, was identified.

Another raid struck a vehicle in the same area killing four passengers from the Al-Haytak clan, part of the Abida tribe.

A raid earlier in the evening targeted another vehicle transporting four people, but a rocket missed the car allowing the passengers enough time to flee.

The raids bring to at least 22 the number of people killed in US drone strikes since attacks were intensified on 24 December. Washington tripled the number of attacks in 2012, carrying out 53 recorded strikes.

0849 GMT: Mali. For those who understand French, Le Monde offers a valuable 5-minute introduction to the situation in the north African country:

Carte animée : la situation au Mali décryptée... by lemondefr

0840 GMT: Palestine. Activists have set up another camp in the occupied West Bank, a week after the new village of Bab al-Shams was overrun by the Israeli military.

A mosque and several tents were established in "Al-Karamah (Dignity)", close to the village of Beit Iksa near Jerusalem on Friday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the dispersal of activists at Bab al Shams, which was set up in the E-1 area where new Jewish settlements are planned.

The Israeli military said soldiers were monitoring the area to prevent disturbances.

0800 GMT: Algeria. Israel forces detain a mother and her 18-month-old infant --- 10 Palestinians and five Israelis were arrested in the South Hebron Hills on Saturday as they tried to reach Palestinian-owned land next to a Jewish settlement in the southern West Bank:

0730 GMT: Algeria. After more than four days of fighting and siege, Algerian special forces overwhelmed the last of the attackers in the In Amenas gas plant.

The Algerian government said 23 hostages and 32 fighters, linked to the an alleged kidnapper and smuggler named Mokhtar Belmokthar, were killed since Wednesday.

On Saturday, the Algerian troops took over the central operations area of the plant. Eleven captors were reportedly slain, along with seven hostages. It was unclear whether the hostages had been executed just before the final operation, or whether they died amid the fighting.

An Algerian ministry said a total of 685 Algerian and 107 foreign workers were freed over the course of the operation.

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