Attacked Algeria plant to reopen in month: director

An Algerian gas facility attacked by Islamists on January 16 is set to reopen within a month, but foreign workers will not return for another three, a plant official said on Thursday.

"The plant will reopen in less than a month, but only for Algerians," Lotfi Benadouda, director of the Tigantourine site, told Algerian and foreign journalists during a brief visit to the facility.

"Foreign partners will not return for another three months" but would provide assistance in running the facility "from a distance," he said.

The site, jointly run by British BP, Norwegian Statoil and Algeria's Sonatrach near In Amenas in the southern Algerian Sahara desert, was attacked more than two weeks ago by Islamist gunmen who took hundreds of hostages.

A four-day siege and two rescue attempts by the Algerian army resulted in the deaths of 38 hostages, 37 foreigners and one Algerian.

The military assault also left 29 of the Islamists dead and resulted in the capture of three of them.

Among the reporters were journalists from Japan and Algeria. Ten Japanese and five Norwegians were killed in the hostage crisis, as were six Britons.

British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Algiers on Wednesday amd Thursday, accompanied by his national security adviser, in the first visit to Algeria by a British premier since independence from France in 1962.

Cameron and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika agreed a new strategic partnership bringing together senior security, military and intelligence advisers to help each other respond to emerging threats.

Benadouda spoke on Thursday just a few yards from where some of the attackers killed their remaining hostages during the army's final assault on January 19.

Damage from the violence was clearly visible.

Bullet holes, a room blackened by an explosion in one of the plant's buildings, and burnt-out Jeeps outside still littered the site.

The site director was unable to hide his emotion, saying the deaths of his colleagues were "a huge loss for us."

One worker at the plant, who gave his name just as Ahmed, said defiantly: "We will not give in to terror. We'll continue to go forward despite the pain."

Around 120 people were working at the plant on Thursday to prepare for its reopening.

A strong security presence made up of soldiers, police, paratroopers and armoured vehicles was deployed around the plant on Thursday.

"This is the best-guarded area in the country," said another worker.