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Obama, Clinton Silent on Hostage Crisis

9:51 AM, Jan 17, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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At least two American hostages (and possibly several more) are being held hostage at a gas plant in Algeria, but there's been no word on unfolding the situation from either President Barack Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In fact, the only official word to come from the Obama administration is confirmation from the State Department that indeed Americans are being held hostage there.

"[W]e condemn in strongest terms the terrorist attack on British Petroleum personnel and facilities at In Amenas, Algeria earlier today. We are obviously closely monitoring the situation. We’re in contact with Algerian authorities and our diplomatic counterparts in Algiers, as well as with BP’s security office in London," said State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland in response to a reporter's question yesterday.

"The best information that we have at this time is that U.S. citizens are among the hostages. I hope you will understand that in order to protect their safety, I’m not going to get into numbers, I’m not going to get into names, I’m not going to get into any further details as we continue to work on this issue with the Algerian authorities and also with their employers."

Nuland did say that Clinton is aware of the situation and taking action. "Let me also say that the Secretary has spoken to our Ambassador in Algiers, Ambassador Ensher today. And as I was coming down here, she was on the phone with Algerian Prime Minister Sellal," said Nuland. 

Yet the White House has been silent. And President Obama has not indicated he has plans to address the public on exactly what is happening. Same for Clinton, who has yet to make a public statement on the situation. 

The State Department, however, indicated it was increasing security at the embassy in Algeria. "Well, as we always do in these circumstances, our Embassy has issued an emergency message to U.S. citizens, encouraging them to review their personal security. We’re obviously taking the appropriate measures at the Embassy as well," she said at yesterday's press briefing.

For more on the story, Reuters reports:

Six foreign hostages and eight of their captors were killed when Algerian forces fired on a vehicle being used by besieged gunmen at a gas plant in the remote Algerian desert on Thursday, a local source told Reuters.

Mauritania's ANI news agency, which has been in constant contact with the kidnappers, said seven hostages were still being held: two Americans, three Belgians, one Japanese and one British citizen.

The standoff, which began when gunmen stormed the gas plant on Wednesday morning demanding a halt to a French military operation in neighboring Mali, has unfolded into one of the biggest international hostage crises in decades.

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