SUSPECTED jihadists launched a rocket attack Friday on an Algerian gas plant jointly run by foreign companies, three years after a deadly hostage crisis at another facility in the Sahara desert.
There were no reports of casualties in Friday’s assault on a plant operated by Britain’s BP, Norway’s Statoil and Algerian company Sonatrach.
It was the most serious such incident since Al-Qaeda-linked militants stormed a complex in Algeria’s remote east in 2013 and began a four-day siege that left dozens dead.
“This morning, at approximately 06:00 local time, the In Salah gas asset in Krechba was hit by explosive munitions fired from a distance,” Norwegian oil and gas firm Statoil said in a statement.
BP said no employees were hurt at the plant 1,300 kilometres (800 miles) south of Algiers.
“There are no reports of any injuries to personnel at the site and the Central Processing Facility (CPF) has been shut down as a safety precaution,” it said.
A plant employee who did not wish to be named told AFP that the site is surrounded by a security fence and soldiers are permanently on guard.
“The rockets seem to have been fired from very far away,” he said.
Military personnel mobilised soon after the rocket fire to prevent the attackers gaining access to the facility, the employee added.
Algeria’s official news agency APS confirmed the attack.
“Two terrorists fired homemade rockets on the gas plant in Krechba,” it said, adding that there were no casualties or material damage.
A manhunt was launched to find the attackers, it said.
No group claimed immediate responsibility but militants linked to both Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group operate in the country.
In 2013 a four-day siege and two rescue attempts by the Algerian army at a gas facility at In Amenas resulted in the deaths of nearly 40 foreign workers and 29 attackers.
The assault—which also targeted a site run by Sonatrach, BP and Statoil—was claimed by Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants led by the notorious one-eyed Algerian jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
The attack prompted a widespread security review in the North African country, heavily reliant on income from gas exports.
The head of Algeria’s army last week called for increased vigilance following what he termed an “unprecedented deterioration” in security.
Algeria has been on guard against jihadist attacks such as those experienced by its neighbours Libya and Tunisia, with local press reporting the deployment of tens of thousands of soldiers along its vast desert borders.
On Monday, a security source said a militant leader who had joined the Islamic State group was killed during an army operation west of Algiers.
A brutal civil war in the 1990s between the government and Islamists killed 200,000 people.
Despite adopting a peace and reconciliation charter in 2005 aimed at turning the page on the conflict, armed groups remain active in the centre and east of Algeria.
A total of “157 terrorists, including 10 commanders” were killed or arrested in military operations last year, according to the defence ministry.
Algeria, a member of the OPEC oil cartel, is one of the world’s largest exporters of natural gas, with revenue from fossil fuels accounting for 95% of its exports.
It has an estimated 16 billion cubic metres of conventional gas and 20 million cubic metres of non-conventional gas, according to Sonatrach figures.