Cougar falls in Algerian siege

The four-day hostage crisis in an Algerian natural gas facility concluded Saturday when the nation’s military wiped out the remaining terrorists. The death toll continues to rise, and as of Monday, had reached nearly 37.

Frederick Buttaccio

Among the victims was UH alumnus and BP sales operation coordinator Frederick Buttaccio, class of 1976, who was confirmed dead Friday.

“We are very saddened at the loss of Frederick Buttaccio. Any time we lose a member of our Cougar family, we are saddened,” said president and CEO of UH Alumni Association Mike Pede.

“And when we lose a Cougar in such a tragic fashion, it affects us in profound ways. Our prayers go out to Frederick’s family and every family effected by this incident in Algeria,” Pede said. reported that Buttaccio, 58, suffered a heart attack following the invasion of the In Amenas natural gas facility in the Sahara Dessert early Wednesday morning. BP, which helped operate the plant, reports that some employees are still missing.

The uprising, led by terrorists linked to al-Qaida, was stifled by the Algerian military Saturday. BBC reported 25 bodies found Saturday but did not identify all as hostages. Sunday, the Associated Press reported the death toll as 81 and rising. Many bodies were so disfigured that their identities and allegiances were unclear.

Mokhtar Belmokhtar

The terrorists were protesting French involvement in Mali, which is south of Algeria. Mali soldiers overthrew the government in March. The country has since descended into a state of unrest. France sent in air attacks and land raids in January.

Mastermind of the siege, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, reportedly planned the attack for two months, and the U.S. had limited knowledge of the attack beforehand, ABC News reports. The Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Rep. Mike Rogers told ABC the committee knew of a group seeking western targets in Algeria. They were not aware of the exact location.

The following days are sure to reveal more information about the siege, the attackers and the countless victims of what is being called one of the worst hostage crises in history.

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