More than 800 people were taken hostage Jan. 16 at a gas facility in Algeria by around 40 Islamist terrorists. Four days of intense chaos followed, which included several failed attempts by the Algerian army to free the captives, many of whom were foreign citizens. Algerian special forces finally freed the surviving hostages on Jan. 19.
The siege began when terrorists attacked two buses filled with gas plant employees, killing several on the spot and capturing the rest. Heavily armed, the militants then stormed the facility and rigged the plant with explosives.
Survivors said the gun-wielding militants tied them up, beat some of them and fatally shot several employees. Some survivors hid under furniture or in false ceilings. Others tried to dismantle some of the mines that had been scattered throughout the facility.
The following day, Algerian special forces attacked the facility trying to retake the facility. The raid lasted eight hours and several hostages were freed, but many remained hidden in the plant. By Jan. 18, the militants were holed up with at least seven hostages inside the gas facility. Algerian forces surrounded the facility and attempted to free the hostages once again. At that point, many of the remaining hostages were shot by the terrorists.
In the Algerian forces' final assault the morning of Jan. 19, they rounded up the surviving hostages and cleared the site, effectively marking the end of the crisis. Altogether they freed 685 Algerian workers and 107 foreigners. At least 39 hostages were killed along with 29 militants and one Algerian security guard.
Algerian authorities said they believe the purpose of the attack was to demand an end to French military operations in Mali. The al Qaida-linked terrorist group had entered the country from Libya and Mali. The Tigantourine gas facility was operated by British Petroleum, Statoil and an Algerian state oil company.
In this photo, Algerian soldiers and officials stand in front of the gas plant in Ain Amenas, seen in the background, during a visit organized for the media on Jan. 31.