This incident could be evidence of an attempt by him to seize some standing within the somewhat still factionalized group.
The size of the terrorist group attacking the facility and the logistical factors alone involved in the extreme isolation of the target suggests that the operation was planned and even begun before the French intervention.
(To use a pop-culture illustration, admittedly ficticious, it struck me during my association with them as the same attitude as Keyser Söze.)
The responsibility for these deaths lies squarely with the terrorists who launched these vicious and cowardly attacks.
When you are dealing with a terrorist incident on this scale with up to 30 terrorists it is extremely difficult to respond and get this right in every respect.
We should recognise all that the Algerians have done to work with us and to help and co-ordinate with us, and I would like to thank them for that.*****
All 32 terrorists, apparently including the leader of the strike force, Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri, are reported to have been killed.
Update: In the latest report, the death toll for the hostages is now 38, including three Americans, and the tally for dead terrorists not rests at 29, with the Algerians claiming that three have been captured. Five workers still remain unaccounted for.
There is no mention whether Belmokhtar is among the dead or captured. The government confirms, however, that the leader was Amine Benchenab, an Algerian, and is confirmed dead as well.
The makeup of the terrorists is international, with Egyptians, Malians, Nigeri, Mauretanian, Tunisian, and Canadians among them.
Reports still speculate that Belmokhtar and his Masked Brigade are split off from AQIM, but I still consider the plausibility that he and his group are jockeying for power within AQIM, at least to the extent that they are still viable. I would be surprised if Belmokhtar is among the dead at Ain Amenas, but I await further developments from this revision-a-minute unfolding after-action report.