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Hague condemns Algeria attack

(ROUGH CUT ONLY - NO REPORTER NARRATION) The British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters in Australia on Thursday (January 17) there was no justification for the attack on a BP oil installation in Algeria that has left at least one Briton dead. "This is an absolute tragedy of course in this dangerous and rapidly developing situation. The next of kin have been informed. The government's Cobra emergency system is in full operation. I have spoken to our ambassador in Algeria and dispatched a rapid deployment team to Algeria to strengthen our Embassy there and help them in their work. We are in close touch with the government of Algeria, including the prime minister having spoken to the prime minister of Algeria," Hague said, responding to media questions in Sydney. Al Qaeda-linked militants who attacked a gas field in Algeria have demanded an end to French military operations against Islamists in northern Mali in return for the safety of dozens of hostages, Mauritania's ANI news agency reported. But Hague urged caution before linking the attack to the military operation underway in Mali. "I think we would be cautious about ascribing this at this stage to the French intervention in Mali. Of course that is a convenient excuse, but usually operations like this take longer to plan than during the last week's events in Mali," he said. Reports say 40 hostages are being held by a group under the command of a veteran Saharan jihadist. "Whatever excuse is being used by terrorists and murderers who are involved there is no excuse for such behaviour, whatever excuse they may claim. It is absolutely unacceptable of course. It is in this case the cold-blooded murder of people going about their business. So there is no excuse whether it be connected to Libya, Mali or anywhere else," Hague said. The British Foreign Secretary is on his third visit to Australia for annual defence talks in Perth on Friday (January 18).

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