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Head of Algeria' s Sonatrach replaced after terrorist attack


LONDON -- Algeria' s oil minister, Youcef Yousfi, has replaced Sonatrach CEO Abdelhamid Zerguine with current head of exploration and production, Said Sahnoun, on an interim basis, the official at the company said. "Zerguine is no longer the CEO. Sahnoun is the interim head while a permanent replacement is being sought," the official said.

Mr. Zerguine is being blamed for insufficient security at the In Amenas gas plant, the recent target of a deadly terrorist attack, another person familiar with the dismissal said. Last month, terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda took over a natural gas facility jointly operated by Sonatrach, BP and Statoil. The attack was unprecedented in its scale and ended with 37 foreign staff dead.

Because previous attacks had been unsuccessful, "security had been relaxed, particularly at Sonatrach," the person said. In particular, Sonatrach gave too much flexibility to its partners in handling security and the local guards weren' t armed, the person said. BP had acknowledged the guards weren' t armed but said it was unnecessary because of the presence of the army around the plant.

In addition, the person said Algerian security forces had been informed by Sonatrach of a meeting at the plant between the plant' s operators and contractors on the day of the attack.

Dow Jones Newswires



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