Panetta: US hostages taken in Algeria attack a 'terrorist act'
ROME — Americans are among the hostages taken at an energy company complex in southern Algeria, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday.
“By all indications, this is a terrorist act,” Panetta told reporters at a press roundtable at the U.S. Embassy. “It is a very serious matter when Americans are taken hostage, along with others. … I want to assure the American people that the United States will take all necessary and proper steps that are required to deal with this situation.”
An Islamist militant group claimed responsibility for the attack on the energy company, and said the hostage situation was revenge for Algeria’s support of France’s military operation against al-Qaida in Mali, the Associated Press reported.
Panetta said he is not sure whether the situation in Algeria is linked to Mali in any way, but said “terrorists are terrorists.”
France began launching air strikes in Mali this weekend, targeting al-Qaida strongholds. The French have also deployed 2,500 troops to the African country, according to the AP.
Panetta has repeatedly praised France’s effort, and Wednesday said the French “took the right step here.”
But so far, the French are standing virtually alone. Other European countries, including Italy, have pledged logistical and intelligence support, but no troops. European leaders will meet tomorrow to determine what additional types of assistance to provide.
Panetta said the U.S. is providing intelligence support to the French and working through potential legal challenges to provide additional intelligence and logistical support.
Tuesday, he told reporters in Madrid that he is not considering sending American troops in Mali.
Still, he said, the operation “should be an international effort,” and “the international community should do what we need to do to confront AQIM.”