The In Amenas attack and attendant heightened security fears have added to existing angst in the North African oil and gas sector. Rapidly rising domestic oil and gas consumption in Algerian and Egypt is cutting into those countries’ exports whilst Libyan output continues to be disrupted by the instability which has followed the downfall of Colonel Qadhafi.

Explanations for the reason the In Amenas plant was targeted are its proximity to Libya and its proliferating Islamist militants, or as a reaction to the French intervention against Islamists in neighboring Mali – or possibly both. Observers also note that Algerian Islamist groups did not carry out major attacks against the country’s hydrocarbon employees or installations during the decade-long civil war in the nineties and that Algeria has thus far managed to contain the spread of the Arab Spring and is focusing on the 2014 presidential elections, and particularly on the question of which candidates will run against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Nonetheless, however hard the Algerian energy authorities try to put the In Amenas attack behind them, the incident has tarnished the country’s hard-earned record of providing security for its hydrocarbon staff and installations, not to mention its reputation as a reliable energy supplier. (CONTINUED - 963 WORDS)