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US warns of 'high threat' to citizens in Algeria

Accommodation compound belonging to Algeria's Sonatrach oil company in Algeria's deep south on January 19, 2013
A picture shows an accommodation compound belonging to Algeria's Sonatrach oil company in Tiguentourine near In Amenas in the desert in Algeria's deep south on January 19, 2013. The United States has warned of a "high threat" of terrorism or kidnappings i

The United States has warned of a "high threat" of terrorism or kidnappings in Algeria and authorized family members of embassy staff to depart following a deadly hostage crisis.

"On January 19, 2013, the Department of State authorized the departure from Algiers for eligible family members following the attack on the In Amenas BP Oil facility," the State Department said in a statement.

It went on to cite "credible threats of the kidnapping of Western nationals" and said that, while the consular section would remain open, the Algiers embassy has "limited" ability to respond to emergencies.

"The Department of State urges US citizens who travel to Algeria to evaluate carefully the risks posed to their personal safety. There is a high threat of terrorism and kidnappings in Algeria," it said.

Some two dozen hostages were killed after militants seized the oil facility and demanded a halt to France's military intervention in neighboring Mali, where the government is battling an Islamist insurgency.

The Algerian army responded swiftly, killing 32 kidnappers in a 72-hour stand-off with the so-called "Signatories in Blood" group, freeing 685 Algerian workers and 107 foreigners, according to the interior ministry.

The United States and other Western nations have expressed mounting concern in recent years over the rise of Islamist militancy in North Africa's vast and impoverished Sahel region.

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