Attacked Algerian gas plant to partially restart work over the next week, company head says

ALGIERS, Algeria – The Algerian gas complex that came under terrorist attack last month will partially resume work over the next week, an official said Monday. Separately, the country’s president issued his first public statement on the attack, congratulating the army for its response.

Abdelhamid Zerguine, the head of the country’s state-owned energy company, Sonatrach, said one of the plant’s three gas units should resume production before Feb. 24 at 9 million cubic meters of gas a year — about a third of the plant’s capacity.

Feb. 24 is anniversary of Algeria’s 1971 nationalization of its oil industry.

On Jan. 16, a band of al-Qaida affiliated militants attacked the Ain Amenas complex and took dozens of foreign workers hostage. After a four-day standoff, the Algerian army moved in and killed 29 attackers and captured three others. At least 37 hostages, including one Algerian worker, died in the battle.

The Ain Amenas facility is jointly run by BP, Algeria’s Sonatrach and Norway’s Statoil.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika also broke his silence Monday about the Jan. 16 attack. In a statement read out by an adviser, Bouteflika said the army troops were worthy heirs to those who fought for independence from France between 1956 and 1962.

Algeria’s press has speculated that the president’s long silence was due to differences with the country’s powerful military.