Statoil and its partners in the In Amenas gas plant hit by a terrorist attack in January might have been over-reliant on Algerian military protection, according to an investigation by the Norwegian oil company. The independent report said that neither Statoil nor BP, its joint venture partner, could have prevented the attacks that killed 40, including five Norwegians. But it added: “There is reason to question the extent of their reliance on Algerian military protection. Neither of [Statoil and the joint venture] conceived of a scenario where a large force of armed attackers reached the facility.”
The report, which includes 19 recommendations on how Statoil could improve security both at In Amenas – where the Norwegian company currently has no workers – and elsewhere, is the first in-depth official investigation of the attacks in January. It avoids heavy criticism of any party but offers implicit rebukes both to Algerian forces, for failing to repel the attack in which terrorists took control of In Amenas within 15 minutes, and the companies involved, which include BP and Algerian state-owned Sonatrach. Given the security arrangements where Algerian forces were responsible for the outer security “it was only the Algerian military that could have prevented the attack on 16 January”, the report stated.
But it added: “No military force can guarantee complete protection against determined terrorists for a licence area the size of Luxembourg, situated close to a porous border.” Helge Lund, Statoil’s chief executive, said: “The report concludes clearly: we are not good enough in this area. It comes down to us as management and myself as a leader. We must give this area much higher priority and more resources.”
The investigation was commissioned by Statoil and had six independent members, headed by Torgeir Hagen, former head of Norway’s intelligence services and a member of the commission that examined Anders Behring Breivik’s attacks in Norway two years ago. The report said there was clear evidence the terrorists had insider knowledge in the planning of the attack but it was unclear as to whether there was help in executing it.
Five Norwegians were killed over the course of the three-day attack and the report attempts to shed some light over their deaths. It said that two of them were most probably killed during an attack on a vehicle convoy. The other three were most probably killed the next day in the final assault by the Algerian military on In Amenas’s production facility. The report says: “Statoil will develop its security capability for the future in a way that leaves a lasting legacy, and in an uncertain global environment reduces the risk to its people in Norway and across the world.”