Statoil mourns all its five victims

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The last of the missing employees of Norwegian state oil company Statoil who were among hostages held in a terrorist attack in Algeria on January 16 was confirmed dead at the end of the week, as the caskets of his four colleagues were brought back to Norway. A memorial ceremony is planned for next week to honor the terrorists’ victims.

Victor Sneberg, Statoil's country manager in Algeria, was the last of Statoil's five missing employees to be confirmed dead after terrorists attacked the gas processing plant where he worked at In Amenas. A memorial service for all five will be held in Bergen on Monday. PHOTO; Statoil

Victor Sneberg, Statoil’s country manager in Algeria, was the last of Statoil’s five missing employees to be confirmed dead after terrorists attacked the gas processing plant where he worked at In Amenas. A memorial service for all five will be held in Bergen on Monday. PHOTO; Statoil

“It is with deep sorrow that we have received the news today that Victor Sneberg, our country manager in Algeria, is among those who lost their lives in the terror attack at In Amenas,” chief executive Helge Lund said in a statement.

Sneberg of Sandnes, age 56, had been working as Statoil’s chief of operations in Algeria and at In Amenas since October 2010. He was employed by Statoil in 1985 and earlier worked at the University of Tromsø.

The four who previously were confirmed dead and whose bodies were brought home earlier this week were Tore Bech (58) of Bergen, Hans M Bjone (55) from Brandbu in Hadeland, Thomas Snekkevik (35) of Austrheim and Alf Vik (43) of Austrheim.

“Five friends and colleagues who were going about their work for Statoil will never return to their loved ones,” Lund said. “They represented the very best of our company. Our thoughts and deepest compassion go first and foremost to the families, friends and colleagues who have lost those dear to them.” Lund added that everyone in Statoil shares their grief.

Statoil had 17 of its own employees working at the In Amenas gas processing plant in southeastern Algeria when radical Islamists attacked. Algerian authorities have earlier reported that 37 foreigners working at the gas facility plant were killed during the hostage drama. The plant was jointly operated by Statoil, BP and Algerian state energy company Sonatrach.

Neither Statoil nor government officials have said whether the men were killed by their captors or when the Algerian military launched a counterattack on the gas plant to prevent the terrorists from strengthening their position. Newspaper Bergens Tidende (BT) and Aftenposten reported on Friday that at least one of the Norwegian men died in a car that was attacked by the Algerian military, quoting the plant manager and service manager. BT reported that the plant managers also claimed that three of the victims were led away from their offices at the plant production facilities, chained together.

Foreign journalists were finally allowed to visit the plant this week and many media provided details around what had happened during the days of the attack and interviews with some of the plant’s managers.

The caskets of the first four employees to be confirmed dead were flown home on Wednesday, and Statoil management together with the victims’ families held a private and closed reception.

Statoil is planning a memorial service in the historic Håkon’s Hall in Bergen on Monday February 4. Oil & Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe will attend as representative for the government.

Views and News from Norway/Aasa Christine Stoltz

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