Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canadians among militants in Algeria?

Fake passports may have been used: feds

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OTTAWA -- In the absence of reliable information, Ottawa is assuming fake passports could be behind Algeria's claim Canadians are among the al-Qaida-linked militants who took hostages at a remote desert energy plant, The Canadian Press has learned.

Senior federal sources say the government is frustrated by a lack of information coming out of Algeria.

And they are unhappy Algeria's prime minister went on television Monday and announced two Canadian nationals were among the band of al-Qaida-linked militants who stormed a natural gas complex and took hundreds of workers hostage.

"The concern is we want to see the documentation. We want to see what proves that they're Canadian. And we want to corroborate that with (evidence) back home," said one government official who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

"As far as we know, it's a fake passport. Until we actually see it, we won't be able to know."

Canadian officials are liaising with Algerian officials in Algiers and in Ottawa "to bring some closure to this stuff," but as of Monday night, they couldn't say when that would be.

Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal did not say Monday whether the Canadians were among the 29 militants killed by Algerian forces that stormed the site or the three who were captured alive. Another 38 workers were killed.

The militants reportedly included people from Canada, and hostages who had escaped recalled hearing at least one of the militants speaking English with a North American accent.

Other reports said one of the Canadians was co-ordinating the attack. That could not be confirmed.

Sellal said the Canadians were of Arab descent.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 22, 2013 A8

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