Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

RCMP officers sent to probe Algerian claim

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OTTAWA -- The RCMP are on the ground in Algeria to help pin down whether Canadians were part of the group of al-Qaida-linked terrorists who mounted a deadly siege at an isolated Algerian energy plant, government sources say.

The RCMP deployment is part of an effort, so far unsuccessful, to either confirm or rebut claims that Canadians were among the militants who mounted last week's attack on the remote natural gas complex.

Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal made that claim on Algerian television earlier this week, but so far, Canadian diplomats in Algeria and Foreign Affairs Department officials in Ottawa have been unable to corroborate it.

Foreign Affairs summoned Algeria's ambassador to Canada in hopes of getting an explanation.

Government sources refused to disclose how the RCMP officers are trying to verify the Algerian claim. Authorities say 37 hostages and 29 militants were killed when Algerian forces stormed the complex.

Rick Roth, spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, released a statement Thursday that said Canadian officials on the ground in Algeria were "working with Algerian officials to get the necessary information."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 25, 2013 A16

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