Four of the 18 BP employees who were at a natural gas facility in Algeria when it was attacked by militants this week are unaccounted for, BP CEO Bob Dudley said Saturday morning.
Dudley was subdued and sullen as he spoke to reporters in a conference call, giving the latest information from the facility that BP jointly operates with Norway’s Statoil and Algeria’s state-owned oil company. He said one or more of missing employees may have been killed.
Dudley said the active military operation by Algerian special forces to retake the site has been completed and there is only a remote possibility that people may be hiding in the plant, raising doubts about the fate of Americans and others who have not been accounted for.
“We have grave fears we are likely to have suffered one or more fatalities,” Dudley said.
He said the other 14 employees are safe, though two have suffered non-life threatening injuries.
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He described the events as tragic and said he and the rest of the company were saddened. He also had hard words for the militants, whom he described several times as terrorists and murderers. But Dudley was more reserved when it came to the conduct of the Algerian military in its effort to rescue the hostages.
“There were things happening inside the site that were quite horrific that may have justified the actions of the military,” Dudley said.
He said the militants had placed explosives throughout the facility with the intent of destroying it and Algerian officials were busy Saturday disarming the explosives as they went through the site step by step.
“This has been and continues to be a very distressing and harrowing time,” Dudley said. “It also has been a time of enormous anxiety for us.”
He said accurate information has been hard to come by, but he has received updates from various government officials.
“I think this is the best we know at this time,” he said.
Dudley, at the request of the families, declined to release the names or nationalities of any of the BP employees whom he described as safe or unaccounted for.
“We are very mindful there are other people working for other companies whose fate is currently unknown,” Dudley said. “We have not experienced an attack on any facility on this scale before.”
He said the site was well guarded, but declined to question whether security was adequate prior to the attack.
“BP is a company that cares about its people,” he said.