Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Held Hostage: The In Amenas Ordeal
In Amenas gasoline processing facility would be the perfect setting for a Die Hard movie. It is an isolated spot, surrounded by vast
stretches of the Sahara Desert in every direction. That is why many survivors wonder how several
truckloads of al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists could launch a ground assault on
the facility without the Algerian authorities noticing. Not surprisingly, many in
the Algerian government would prefer to forget the embarrassing international
incident. Fortunately, director Bruce
Goodison and his team have assembled a comprehensive tick-tock history of the
In Amenas hostage crisis. Their
revealing look at contemporary Islamist terrorism, Held Hostage (promo
on most PBS outlets this coming Tuesday.
al-Qaeda reportedly operating freely to the south and east of In Amenas in Mali
and Libya, security was obviously a concern for the expat workers long before
January 16th, 2013. Paul
Morgan, the British security chief, had actually tendered his resignation out
of frustration with lax plant security days before the attack. (Tragically, he would not survive to be
vindicated by events.) While military and gendarmerie escorted workers on and
off the premises, no facility personnel were allowed to carry arms. That meant once Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s band of
terrorist-brigands reached the plant, there would be no means of organizing any
the first on-camera interviews of many survivors and victims’ family members, Held Hostage provides a very personal
perspective on the terrorist attack. Perhaps
the report’s most shocking moment involves the circumstances surrounding the truly
cruel and senseless murder of Filipino expat Angelito Manaois, Jr. Three Americans died at In Amenas, which
should concern us all, but the losses were greater for Britain, Norway, Japan,
and the Philippines. Regardless, the
crimes committed in In Amenas warranted far greater attention than they received
from the traditional old media.
team broaches a number of inconvenient questions throughout the program,
particularly with respect to the conduct of the Algerian military. Granted, refusal to negotiate with terrorists
is a defensible position, but it rather looks better if there is some attempt
to stall for time while organizing a rescue operation. Whereas, strafing carloads of hostages is
just hard to defend from any standpoint.
Hostage is technically quite
well constructed, instilling a full sense of the factors that contributed to
the desert calamity in just under an hour.
Viewers will have the sense they could lead their own briefing session
after watching it—and perhaps they should.
It a real expose and a wake-up call, but its warning is likely to fall
on deaf ears. Easily the most important
television of the week, Held Hostage airs
on most PBS stations this Tuesday (10/22).
Labels: In Amenas Attack, PBS