North Africa

Western oil workers at In Amenas, the gas plant in Algeria that militants stormed on January 16, knew how vulnerable they were.

An executive from Statoil, the Norwegian oil company, told a visitor to the facility in 2007 that he worried about the risks to expatriate staff travelling to and from the site. After flying from Algiers into the middle of the Sahara, they faced an hour-long bus trip to In Amenas. “We want to build an airstrip near the plant and avoid bus transportation from the airport,” he said. 

For the oil and gas companies involved in Algeria, the primary focus for the next few days will be the safety of their staff. Big companies such as BP and Statoil can from the outside seem inhuman. From within they work as families. Many people in London, Aberdeen, Stavanger and Oslo will know one or more of the men caught up in the desert attack.