FCO describes situation as ongoing amid uncertainty about the number of casualties and PM’s warning to be ‘prepared for bad news’
The hostage crisis in Algeria is not over yet, the Foreign Office said on Friday morning, despite reports from Algerian state news agency APS that the crisis had ended last night.
Amid uncertainty about the number of casualties, the FCO in London said in a statement that the situation was “on-going”. At least one British national has been killed, but reports suggest the fate of the others remains uncertain. The prime minister, David Cameron, said on Thursday evening the country “should be prepared for bad news”.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The terrorist incident in Algeria remains ongoing. The Prime Minister spoke twice to his Algerian counterpart, prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal, on Thursday.”
Cameron will chair a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee on Friday morning as efforts continue to establish the full scale of the bloodshed.
“He chaired Cobra twice on Thursday, and will chair another meeting on Friday morning; Cobra will continue to meet as long as the crisis lasts,” the FCO spokesman said.
“As the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have said, to the best of our knowledge on the information given to us by the Algerian government, one British national has sadly been killed.
“We are not in a position to give further information at this time. But the Prime Minister has advised we should be prepared for bad news.
“Our priority will remain the safety of British nationals and their co-workers. We cannot provide any details that might endanger their lives. But we are working round-the-clock to resolve this crisis.”
The foreign secretary, William Hague, has cut short a visit to Australia to return to the UK and there is expected to be a ministerial statement to the Commons.
Cameron was informed that it was under way when he telephoned his Algerian counterpart in the morning despite having earlier asked to be kept fully updated. Offers of British help had been declined.
The British government complained it had not been informed before the military operation was launched. Cameron was only told once it was under way and immediately demanded an explanation from Algiers. Washington and Paris indicated they too had been left in the dark.
There were also questions about the tactics used by the Algerians to break the hostage standoff. Several reports from the scene describe helicopter gunships strafing the workers’ living quarters where the hostages were being held. The militants claimed they still held seven hostages: two Americans, three Belgians, one Japanese and one British citizen.