By Laura Smith-Spark and Yousuf Basil
Islamists attacked a gas field in eastern Algeria, killing two people and seizing hostages, including Westerners, Algeria's interior minister said Wednesday.
The incident may be linked to France's military support for the government of nearby Mali, according to reports from the region.
The Westerners, accompanied by Algerian security forces, were en route to In Amenas Airport when they were attacked early in the morning by a group of no more than 20 people, the official, Diho Weld Qabliyeh, told Algerian state television. The security forces returned fire, and the attackers withdrew to the base of the petroleum operation, some 3 kilometers away, he said.
Upon arrival at the base, he continued, the attackers "took in a number of Westerners and Algerians - some people told us they were nine, some people told us 12."
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Americans were among the hostages.
Accounts over the number differed.
Read the full CNN.com story here.
By Elise Labott
The Syrian government did not use chemical weapons against residents of Homs in a December attack, a U.S. State Department investigation shows, but did apparently misuse a riot-control gas in the incident, according to senior U.S. officials.
The investigation stemmed from allegations inside Syria about the use of chemical weapons during an attack on the city of Homs on December 23. The officials said the State Department launched a probe from its consulate in Istanbul after doctors and activists reported dozens of victims suffering from nervous system, respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments after inhaling the gas.
Foreign Policy's "The Cable" blog reported Tuesday that a secret diplomatic cable provided a "compelling case" that President Bashar al-Assad's military used chemical weapons in the attack.
The United States was informed of the incident by representatives of a non-governmental organization working in Syria, who told the U.S. consulate in Turkey that they believed a chemical attack took place in Homs, according to a U.S. official. The NGO set up some interviews for the consulate, which then wrote a cable discussing the concerns. The U.S. official said the cable noted that the evidence was inconclusive that there was a chemical attack.
By Carol Cratty
As law enforcement agencies finalize security preparations for Barack Obama's second inauguration, an FBI official said Tuesday authorities have "no credible corroborated threats to any of the activities."
Debra Evans Smith, the FBI's acting assistant director in charge of its Washington field office, said the FBI will have specialized personnel ready to go to meet any security challenge.
"We will have our SWAT team, pretty much all of our specialty teams will be available and on standby to include (weapons specialists), our dive team, our intelligence team - working around the clock - our hostage negotiators, (and) our special agent bomb technicians will also be available," Smith told reporters.FULL STORY