Algeria siege inquest to begin








The In Amenas gas plantThe In Amenas siege ended when Algerian forces attacked and took control of the gas plant


An inquest into the deaths of six Britons and a UK-based Colombian killed during a militant attack on a gas plant in Algeria is set to begin in London.

In January 2013, a group linked to al-Qaeda stormed the In Amenas facility.

Algerian forces laid siege, and by the time they regained control, 40 workers and at least 29 militants were dead.

The inquest’s coroner stood down last week to be replaced by a judge after the government said it might present “sensitive material” as evidence.

The Britons killed at In Amenas were Garry Barlow, Carson Bilsland, Stephen Green, Sebastian John, Paul Morgan and Kenneth Whiteside.


Paul MorganPaul Morgan, from Liverpool, was among the Britons who died

The inquest will also consider the death of Carlos Estrada, a Colombian who had moved to London.

In a statement last week, coroner Penelope Schofield said she had been asked to stand down by the chief coroner after government officials said they “held sensitive material which they considered was possibly relevant to the inquest, and that this material could only be reviewed by a judge”.

She said she initially refused to stand down because appointing a judge would have meant a “lengthy adjournment” which would have “devastating effects on the families and witnesses”.

But she said Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC was now available to hear the case on the listed date, and she had decided it was “in the interests of justice” for the judge to hear the inquest.


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Timeline


In Amenas road sign

16 January2013 Militants attack two buses carrying In Amenas workers, killing two. They then go on to the living quarters and main installation, seizing hostages. Some gas workers manage to escape

17 January Algerian forces attack after the militants try to move their hostages in five 4x4s. Four of the vehicles are destroyed in an air strike and an unknown number of hostages are killed

18 January Stalemate as Algerian forces surround the gas plant where the remaining hostages are held

19 January Algerian forces launch a final assault after reports that the hostage-takers are killing their captives


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Army assault

Militants from a group known as the Signed-in-Blood Battalion arrived before dawn on 16 January last year and entered the In Amenas plant, a joint venture run by British company BP, Norway’s Statoil and Algerian state company Sonatrach.

Within 15 minutes they had taken control, killing some some of the plant’s 800 workers and taking others – mostly foreigners – hostage.

Algerian forces surrounded the site and, while militants were moving hostages in a convoy, destroyed four vehicles – killing an unknown number of hostages.

The Algerian army finally regained control of the plant with an assault on 19 January.

The hearing, at Westminster Coroner’s Court, is expected to take one or two days.

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