**Recent report warned AQIM attack likely at Sahara energy facilities within two years. ‘Greatest expansion of terrorist activity [in Algeria] is in south and border areas, where AQIM factions in northern Mali, such as MUJAO, can penetrate in Illizi, Adrar, Tindouf, and Tamanrasset to kidnap for ransom and attack Algerian security forces.’**
Telegraph, by Emily Gosden (London, England, Jan. 16, 2013) — The oil major, which is the largest foreign investor in Algeria, is thought to have up to 20 staff working at the In Amenas facility in the Sahara desert.
The field produces ‘wet gas’ – gas with some liquid – and is operated by a joint venture of which BP is a member, with a 46pc stake. Norway’s Statoil and Sonatrach, the Algerian state company, are the other partners.
Details of the attack were still emerging on Wednesday afternoon but an Al-Qaeda-linked groups had already claimed responsibility.
Questions are likely to be asked about the level of security protection in the country, which is known to have a high risk of kidnapping, especially after recent warnings from risk experts that attacks on Saharan energy facilities were increasingly likely.
BP’s safety procedures have been under intense scrutiny after a series of accidents including the Texas City refinery explosion in 2005, which killed 15 people, and the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, which killed 11 workers. BP was criticised for safety failings by investigations into both accidents.
One source close to the company suggested BP said that security at In Amenas was provided by the Algerian authorities with a strong military presence.
In a 2012 report, risk consultants Exclusive Analysis – recently acquired by IHS – warned that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was likely to attack energy facilities in the Sahara within two years.
“The greatest expansion of terrorist activity [in Algeria] is occurring in the south and the border areas, where AQIM factions based in northern Mali, such as Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), can penetrate the provinces of Illizi, Adrar, Tindouf and Tamanrasset to conduct kidnap for ransom and attacks on Algerian security forces,” Firas Abi Ali, Deputy Head of MENA Forecasting wrote.
“AQIM’s southern factions, based near the borders with Mali and Niger, are growing stronger. They have kidnapped a number of Westerners and possess a proven vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) capability.
“It is increasingly likely that they will attempt to push further north and attack Saharan energy facilities in the two-year outlook.”
Fellow risk consultants Maplecroft rank Algeria as one of 22 countries where there is an “extreme” risk of kidnapping. It is the 21st most risky out of 197 countries, according to Maplecroft’s Kidnapping Risk Index.
However, many of the world’s biggest oil-producing countries are rated at even higher risk. Nigeria is ranked 3rd, Iraq 6th, Libya 12th and South Sudan 17th. A BP spokesman said: “Our absolute priority is the safety and security of our staff.”