The French Embassy in Tunis called on French expatriates yesterday, January 17, to take increased safety precautions immediately following the mass kidnapping of foreigners in an attack on a gas field in neighboring Algeria.
“In the context of French military intervention in Mali, French citizens are asked to be especially vigilant. It is reminded that any movement in the southern Sahara is prohibited,” read a communiqué from the French Embassy.
During a visit to Tunisia on January 15, Hélène Conway-Mouret, the minister delegate for French nationals abroad, had also touched upon security concerns for French expatriates in Tunisia.
“We must remain vigilant everywhere… Salafists are present in Tunisia as they are present in France… This is a real threat, which should not be minimized, yet we should not fall either in a sort of collective psychosis,” she said.
In an apparent reprisal for French military operations in Mali against rebel fighters, Islamist militants attacked an energy facility in Algeria – 800 miles south of the capital of Algiers in the Saharan desert – and kidnapped at least 41 foreigners of American, Japanese, and various European nationalities, reported Reuters.
According to the same source, the French government has not confirmed whether or not French nationals are among the hostages. Europe 1 Radio speculated that four Frenchmen may also be held by the kidnappers.
The militants are believed to be an affiliate of Al-Qaeda operating in Algeria.