Statoil mourns as death toll rises

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Algerian authorities announced Monday that 38 hostages, 37 of them foreign nationals working in Algeria, are now believed to have been killed after Islamist terrorists stormed a gas processing plant last week that was partly run by Norwegian state oil company Statoil. Five Norwegian employees at the plant who remain missing are now presumed to be among the dead.

Flags at all Statoil facilities were lowered to half-mast at noon on Monday and will remain there for one week, in honour of the company's five missing employees feared killed in the attack on a gas plant in Algeria. PHOTO: Statoil/Harald Pettersen

Flags at all Statoil facilities, like here at company headquarters just outside Stavanger, were lowered to half-mast at noon on Monday and will remain there for one week, in honour of the company’s five missing employees feared killed in the attack on a gas plant in Algeria. PHOTO: Statoil/Harald Pettersen

The higher number of foreign victims, up from 23 reported by the Algerians during the weekend, was revealed as Statoil employees gathered at company headquarters near Stavanger to hear a somber address from Statoil chief executive Helge Lund and words of sympathy and support from Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. Statoil employees at offices and plants around the world could tune in via video link from Norway.

Stoltenberg said he was there to express sympathy “on behalf of a whole nation,” adding that “we feel your pain and we share your anger.” The five Statoil employees still unaccounted for retained the status of “missing” and both Lund and Stoltenberg said all efforts were being made to find them and identify them. Lund called them “trusted and experienced colleagues” and “we are doing everything we can” to bring them home.

Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal told a press conference in Algiers Monday that the 37 expatriate hostages confirmed dead or missing came from eight countries: Japan, the Philippines, Great Britain, Norway, Romania, Malaysia, the US and France. One Algerian hostage was also killed, Sellal said, who added that several of the hostages were executed with a shot in the head.

He said that 29 hostage-takers were also killed, and three more captured alive. He said they all arrived from northern Mali, where Islamists are trying to seize control of the entire country. Sellal said the leader of the attack was Algerian, and that the others originally were from Egypt, Canada, Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Tunisia.

Stoltenberg, speaking in English, called their attack “the worst ever on Norwegian economic interests outside Norway. It is an attack on innocent people, but it is more than that.” He added that it also was an attack on the global system of international trade but that such trade can’t and won’t be stopped. He said Norway will “never abandon” its international activity or “give in” to the threat of terrorism. Stoltenberg called state-controlled Statoil a “professional company,” adding that “in the midst of the tragedy, I would like you (the Statoil employees) to know this: We are truly proud of you in Statoil.”

He also stressed that the attack “mobilized political leadership” and cooperation not least among the countries directly involved. He noted how he has been, for example, in constant dialogue with the president of France and the prime ministers of the UK, Japan and Algeria since the crisis began.

Lund also stressed that Statoil’s “important work will continue” despite what he called “the worst attack on Statoil and the whole oil and gas industry in living memory.” He said that although the attack is over, “we will have to live with it for a long time” before Statoil “will gradually move on.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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