BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley confirmed Saturday that 14 of the company's 18 workers at the In Amenas plant in Algeria are safe, but the company is unable to confirm the whereabouts of the other four. In prepared remarks during a teleconference at BP headquarters, Dudley said:
As the situation continually changes, we are doing all we can to locate them, working with the relevant British and Algerian government authorities and agencies. While not confirmed, tragically, we have grave fears that we are likely to have suffered one or more fatalities.
The BP chief's remarks came as Algerian forces launched a final assault against the Islamist militants who stormed the gas complex Wednesday and reportedly took hundreds of workers hostage. Most of the hostages had been freed by Saturday, but reports from various news agencies, quoting an unnamed Algerian security official, suggested the militants may have killed their seven remaining hostages as Algerian forces approached, The Washington Post's Anthony Faiola and Michael Birnbaum reported.
Tiguentourine natural gas complex, in eastern central Algeria, is a sprawling, remote facility operated jointly by the Algerian company Sonatrach, BP and Statoil. The majority of its hundreds of workers are Algerian nationals. BP generally has about 20 staff members also working at In Amenas, Dudley said.
Dudley commented at length on the unprecedented and brutal nature of the attack, calling it, "an unprovoked violent assault by heavily armed murderers."
We have not experienced an attack on any such facilities on this scale before. As a precautionary measure we are, of course, reviewing security at our other operations in the region and around the world. There will undoubtedly be government investigations into the horrendous events of the past few days. And we will participate in them fully.
Two of the accounted-for employees have sustained injuries, he said, but they are not life-threatening. Dudley added that the company has pulled non-essential staff out of Algeria as a precautionary measure.