The hostage crisis in Algeria has highlighted once again the vulnerability of oil and gas installations across the Middle East and North Africa.
Neighbour Libya has stepped up security at oil fields due to the crisis and energy firms a considering taking similar action in Egypt.
The In Amenas facility was seen as impregnable by many who worked there; walled in, miles from anywhere; with the Algerian army carrying out regular patrols.
The facility produces about nine billion cubic metres of gas per year and is responsible for about 18 percent of Algerian exports.
French energy analyst Francis Perrin said: “The attack at In Amenas was an attempt to hit the gas resource – the crown jewels of Algeria; as well as the Algerian state and Sonatrach Petroleum, a state-owned company. So obviously this is a strike against the state and they intended to hit it hard.”
Statoil of Norway and Britain’s BP also jointly operate the facility. Peter Mather, Head of BP UK said the company was taking immediate action to ensure the safety of its staff.
“We’re now beginning a staged and planned reduction in non-essential workforce, on a temporary basis, pulling them out of the country,” he said.
The assumed mastermind behind the attack, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, was a senior commander of the group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb until last year.
He fell out with the network and he and his militants are thought to be operating independently.