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The Algerian hostage crisis continues. A number of British
workers are still at risk after the attack by Islamist militants. David
Cameron says Algerian forces are still pursuing terrorists and
looking for hostages at the gas installation in the Sahara desert.
Last night, the number of British citizens at risk was less than 30.
Thankfully, was now know that number's been quite significantly
reduced. Heavy snow falls across much of
Britain, shutting more than 2,000 schools and bringing widespread
disruption with more to come. Travel disruption on the roads as
trains are delayed, flights cancelled and motorists get stuck.
We'll have the latest in some of the worst affected areas.
One big lie. After years of denials, the disgraced cyclist, Lance
Armstrong, admits doping during all seven of his Tour de France wins.
And there was no Christmas cheer for retailers and it's revealed
there was a slight fall. With ten centimetres forecast, we have the
latest on the snowfall impacting across the region. Hundreds of
schools are closing early and Good afternoon. Welcome to the BBC
News at One. The hostage crisis in Algeria is not over. The Prime
Minister says British workers are still at risk, though not as many
as first thought. David Cameron told the Commons that the attack on
a remote gas installation in the Sahara desert was brutal and savage
and he said the Islamist militants were heavily armed and well
coordinated. One Briton was killed at the start of the attack when a
convoy of workers heading to an airfield was ambushed, but the fate
of the others is still unclear. Caroline Hawley reports.
This is the Algerian Army in training for just the kind of
militant threat they are now facing deep in the Sahara desert.
Questions are being asked about why the Security Forces stormed into
the Ain Amenas gas plant with such deadly results.
We know that on Wednesday the kidnappers attacked the residential
compound of the complex, as well as the gas facility. Two days on, it's
still not known how many of the foreigners who worked here were
killed and injured and how many are safe.
David Cameron said Britain had not been told about the military
operation in advance, but he has now been briefed by his Algerian
counterpart. He said that the terrorists had
tried to flee, they judged there to be an immediate threat to the lives
of the hostages and had felt obliged to respond. I spoke to the
Algerian Prime Minister later last night and he told me this first
operation was complete, but this is a large and complex site and they
are still pursuing terrorists and possibly some of the hostages in
other areas of the site. Last night, the number of British citizens at
risk was less than 30. Thankfully, we now know that number's been
quite significantly reduced. Mark Grant from Scotland and other
Scots survived, as did ste fun McFaul from Belfast. He told his
wife he'd had explosives tied around his neck but escaped when
the Algerian Army fired on a five- car convoy and the vehicle he was
in crashed. She has described to me the circumstances in which he
became free. She described the experience that he had as truly
horrific. It's clear from what she told me that unfortunately, there
are a number of the kidnap victims who have not been as fortunate as
Stephen. One French survivor's spoken of
hiding in terror as militants stalked the site searching for
westerners. TRANSLATION: I stayed hidden for
almost 40 hours in my room under the bed. I put boards everywhere
just in case. I had food, water, to sustain myself, and I did not know
how long I would stay there. When the soldiers came to get me, I did
not even know that it was over. For some hostages, it appears the
ordeal is not over yet, as the militants involved in the worst
international hostage crisis for years threatened to attack other
facilities where security is now being stepped up.
Our Political Correspondent, Norman Smith, is in Westminster. The Prime
Minister told the Commons this morning that not as many British
workers were involved as first thought, but do we have any idea of
numbers? There have been a range of numbers. The Prime Minister saying
significantly below 30. There are reports this morning of up to 20,
others have suggested ten. I'm being guided that the number of
Britons at risk may be nearer ten than 20. At risk includes those who
may be dead, may include those wounded or may include those simply
hostages, we do not know the make- up of that number because it's an
ongoing situation. I suppose there is limited comfort that some of the
initial figures which seemed very, very high, those now seem not to be
correct and we are talking about a number closer to ten. Briefly, the
Prime Minister also confirmed he did not know that this rescue
operation was taking place until it was under way? Yes, l. There is
clearly frustration in Government that they seem to be kept oupt of
the loop by the Algerian government and have been determined to handle
this on their own. The Algerian government rebuffed offers of help
in terms of negotiators from Britain and intelligent-gathering
from the US. Also concern that the Algerians were focused on
eliminating the terrorists than necessarily safeguarding the
hostages. Thank you. Our Diplomatic
Correspondent, James Robbins is here. This is an incredibly remote
part of the world in the Sahara desert, there are fears about what
is unfolding here, Europe's soft underbelly it was called today?
Sir Malcolm Rifkind used this phrase first coined by Winston
Churchill in a different context. What he was talking about was vast
ungoverned spaces in north Africa, particularly of course in northern
Mali. The Prime Minister responded to that and agreed with the idea
that space could not be left for terrorists, extremist militants in
Africa, whether in Mali or Algeria or neighbouring countries to build,
arm or plan, as he put it. There was a real determination from David
Cameron to say to the House of Commons, the Western world, Europe,
NATO, has to do more actually to help and support all the
Governments in north Africa fighting a considerable battle
against Al-Qaeda. The Prime Minister said Al-Qaeda in
Afghanistan and Pakistan had been weakened, but it was exploiting now
weaknesses in a whole swathe of countries, many of them very remote
in north Africa. Heavy snow is causing disruption
across many parts of the UK with roads blocked, power cuts, flights
cancelled and schools closed and forecasters say there's much more
to come. Across many counties, trains have been delayed and
cancelled, Southampton and Birmingham Airports have been shut
and flights at Heathrow, Cardiff and Bristol are all affected.
Energy companies have been struggling to fix faults in the
freezing conditions, leaving thousands without power. And more
than 2,000 schools have been closed across England and Wales. In a
moment, we'll hear from our correspondents in some of the
worst-hit parts of the country, but first to South Wales, where a rare
red Met Office warning is in place. High well Griffith is in Merthyr
Tydfil. Thanks. This is one of those towns
in the red zone, the area covered by that special Met Office warning,
issued last night, of severe weather. The forecast came true.
It's been snowing since the early hours, making conditions very tough,
particularly out on the roads. At points today, it was feared that
Merthyr Tydfil could be cut off. The council teams have been out
trying to keep people on the move. With grit and a fair bit of
determination. The town of Merthyr Tydfil is trying to deal with what
the weather's thrown at it. Up to a foot of snow has fallen on
the heads of the South Wales valleys. Many who battled their way
into work quickly turned around. I think it's a nightmare. I own a
business in the town and I've come down, I've opened for 30 minutes
and closed because it's going to cost me more money to keep all the
lights on. Got up this morning, couldn't open up. A weekend off?
Yes. Trekking to the car now to hopefully get home.
Getting home won't be easy. The main roads north and south have
been closed for part of the day. The Met office red warning for this
area will remain in place until 9pm. This road goes through the red zone,
the main dual carriageway that connects the Wales valleys.
Normally it would be busy but there are a few hardy souls just
venturing out. Many people have heeded the warnings and stayed at
home. Others seem determined to ride out the conditions until the
worst has passed. For those people who are at home,
sadly some are without power, was understand, some 10,000 customers
in west Wales are waiting for power to be returned. For those venturing
out, the red Met Office weather warning stays in place for the
heads of the valleys and Brecon Beacons, the Fire Service warning
people to take extra precautions, taking blankets and mobile phones
and even food with them if they are going out on the roads.
Thank you very much. That is the picture in South Wales. The South
West of England has been badly affected by the weather with
transport hit and hundreds of schools closed. Duncan Kennedy is
in Stroud in Gloucestershire with the latest.
I'm about 60 miles from where Hywell is. It's picturesque and
treacherous. With ten plus centimetres of snow falling,
there's three or four inches. Schools have been badly hit.
these schools are closed... School's out for winter. Hundreds
in the south-west are closed with pupils and teachers told to stay
off the roads. Everywhere you go around here, it's
like this. Treacherous snow conditions. I'm on an A-road just
off the M5 in Gloucestershire. Luckily in a 4X4. I wouldn't want
to be battling these roads in normal vehicles. It's white-out
wherever you look. Even though the gritters have been through here,
the snow covers it all over again in a few seconds.
Here at this school in Stroud, some students had to get in, as they're
sitting GCSE and A-level exams. Classrooms were kept specially warm
for those taking the physics and English tests. The weather adding
unwanted pressure. Got here half an hour early luckily,
warmed up my hands, took the exam and have got an hour-and-a-half
walk back. A lot of friends won't be able to make it in and will have
to resit in the summer which is quite annoying really. Trudging
through the sludge, these pupils have a welcome day off. The nearly
800 schools closed in this region alone.
Whilst at Bristol's heated Lido, they were giving an object lesson
in strong constitutions, a few winter lengths in the face of this
climatic adversity. Very brave people indeed trying to
attempt a swim in this kind of weather. So far as the schools are
concerned, the education authorities are already looking
ahead to Monday because of the uncertain weather over the weekend
and they are telling us either to check with their own individual
websites or with the schools themselves.
Thank you very much. Let's get the very latest on the
disruption to transport. Here is Ben Ando.
Most could hardly move, though some couldn't stop.
Heavy snow causing severe disruption to roads here in Bristol
and across the west of England and South Wales.
During the night, gritters had been deployed, but in the worst hit
areas, hazardous driving conditions caused difficulties on minor and
major roads, a large section of the M4 was closed.
And, falling snow isn't the only danger. You might be driving along
in relatively calm conditions, all right it's a bit snowy, you think
you are OK. All of a sudden a gust of wind cuts down visibility, but
can also blow snow into a lane you thought was clear. For those
wanting to take to the air, conditions on the ground have
caused problems. At Heathrow Airport, numerous flights were
cancelled as snowploughs battled to keep runways and taxiways open.
Southampton Airport's been closed until at least mid afternoon while
Cardiff and Bristol Airport halted flights for a while.
Rail travellers fared a little better. Some train companies in
Wales, the south of England and the Midlands are operating a reduced
service but the network is largely open and running for now.
Getting commuters to work is only half the battle and there are
concerns that more snow today will cause greater disruption and
greater frustration this evening when those who made it in want to
get home for the weekend. Because tomorrow isn't a working
day, it's hoped more poor weather will cause less disruption. In
Gloucestershire, a sliding car knocked another down into a garden.
When police closed the road, residents were left with little
choice but to start enjoying their weekend early.
Birmingham and Southampton Airports are closed, there are problems at
Heathrow Airport as well. Let's get the latest from Luisa Baldini who
is there now. There have been 220 flight
cancellations so far out of the usual 1300 or so flights which
operate every day here at Heathrow Airport. That is partly due to
reduced visibility. If I just show you the scene, you can see what I
mean. You can barely make out the tail fin of the aircraft there at
the stand, but cancellations also due to the fact that this runway
just here, the northern runway, was closed for about an hour so that
they could clear the snow and deice. That's re-opened and is being used
for landings and take offs because they have now had to close the
Heathrow has invested millions in their winter resilience programme,
and more snow clearing vehicles, for example. They are doing as much
as they can to keep the airfield open and running, but there's not
much they can do about the poor visibility. In this situation, air
traffic control will have to reduce what they call the flow rates, that
is the number of planes coming in to land and take off. Cancellations
are inevitable and there may be more throughout the day. The time
is just off the 1:15pm. There will be a full weather core cast at the
end of the programme and you can get regular update on line or tune
into the local radio station for the details on trouble where you
are. The top storey this lunchtime. A hostage crisis in Algeria is
continuing. David Cameron says British workers are at risk are not
as many as first thought. It is a sad day. I feel quite emotional.
One of the best loved voices on Radio Four says farewell after a
quarter of a century behind the microphone. Later on BBC London:
The very latest on how heavy snowfall is making travel across
the region difficult. We'll give you the latest information to plan
your journey home tonight. Plus a full weather forecast in 15 minutes.
After years of denials, the disgraced American cyclist Lance
Armstrong has admitted, for the first time, that he did use
performance enhancing drugs. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey,
Armstrong said he had used banned substances during all seven of his
Tour de France wins between 1999 and 2005. He said it had been "one
big lie, repeated a lot of times" and he was there to say sorry. Our
Sports News Correspondent Andy For years, he had deceived, and now
he confessed. For the moment, among wants a global hero admitted his
success was down to drugs. Did you ever take banned substances? Yes.
In all seven of your Tour de France victories, did you ever take banned
substances or blood dope? Yes. Armstrong said the battle against
Council -- cancer had given him a win-at-all-costs mentality, and
hoping to win the titles never even felt like cheating. And to keep on
winning, you had to keep on using banned substances. Yes, but, and
I'm not sure that this is an acceptable answer, but that is like
saying that you have appeared in your tyres, or water in our bottles.
-- having your tyres. In my view, that was part of the job.
Armstrong admitted he was a bully whose Bix -- behaviour was
inexcusable. He said he would be apologising for the rest of his
life. This is too late. It is too late for probably most people, and
You know, I view the situation as one big lie. But his audience
seemed unmoved. At his home town in Texas, they watched the former
heroes confession, only disappointed that he did not reveal
more. I thought it was kind of sad, actually. I think he danced around
some issues, avoided a few things. It's kind of what I expected. Not
much was revealed. I would have expected more. Armstrong says he
will now co-operate with the authorities. It has been a shameful
saga for cycling. The current riders believe the sport can move
on. He have to remember it is one man, one part of the sport, not a
whole sport. The vast majority of cyclists are clean and we are
showing you can win gold medals and be proud of your sport. And so the
demise of one of sport's most famous fairy tales is now complete.
It was this myth, said Armstrong, this perfect story, and it wasn't
The Chairman of the Police Federation in England and Wales,
Paul McKeever, has died suddenly. The 57-year-old was admitted to
hospital a few days ago, and died last night of an embolism. Mr
McKeever had been chair of the organisation, which represents rank
President Obama has told David Cameron that he wants Britain to
remain a member of the European Union. He made the comments in a
telephone conversation last night before the Prime Minister postponed
a speech on Britain's relationship with the EU because of the ongoing
crisis in Algeria. Our Political Correspondent Iain Watson is at
Westminster. Plenty of journalists had been briefed on what the Prime
Minister was going to say today. Any idea on when or if that speech
will now take place? The latest thinking is that the speech will
probably take place very early next week. But, of course, that has not
been officially confirmed, and for good reasons it was rightly delayed
today. Any further delay could be politically damaging, but we do
have a clearer idea of some of the things that will be in it. Some of
the extracts were briefed to the press in advance on the assumption
it would happen today. It does seem clear that the Prime Minister is
raising up -- at least the possibility that Britain could be
outside the EU. He does not one that happened at once a
relationship where we can stay in it, but there is a danger that the
British people could drift towards the exit. His message to his
European partners is blunt, unless you allow me to renegotiate my
relationship, then I cannot guarantee that Britain will remain
in membership. He talks about frustration towards the EU, but
it's also pretty clear that there is a lack of consent that he would
put any renegotiated deal to way referendum, much as we anticipated.
Some members of his own party would say it is good and he is rising to
the challenge, but some of his coalition partners would say it
would be damaging to use the word exit at all in difficult economic
circumstances. He also briefed Barack Obama yesterday on the
speech, and a White House spokesman said that the President spoke to Mr
Cameron about the close alliance with the UK, and that he values a
strong UK in the European Union. Any delay to the speech doesn't
make it any less controversial. Christmas was even more
disappointing than expected for UK retailers, according to the latest
figures. In December sales rose by just 0.3%. But there was a boost
for many retailers in online sales. Creat -- High Street. Overall,
retail sales have fallen in the last three months, with festive
trading tough. Read tales sales rose on the year by 0.3%, and fell
by 0.1% compared to 20th November 12. What we have seen in the
December results is that year-on- year growth is the slowest we have
seen since December 1998, when you exclude the snow hit December of
2010. As ever, there are winners and losers. A best-ever Christmas
for Aldi. Discount supermarkets are benefiting as they change the way
we shop. It may be a small discount firm, but it is attracting affluent
shoppers and stealing all-important market share from the big
supermarkets. But what about the rest of retail? These are some of
the big names that did well in the current climate. They are all
reaping the benefit of investing in online business, where sales are
continuing to grow. This whole point of consumer convenience and
the consumer wanting to shop online and maybe picking up in-store, but
also liking to shop in the store, means that companies with deep
pockets can afford to invest in that, which is why we are seeing
some of the larger retailers generally doing better than the
smaller. Christmas didn't bring much cheer on the whole for
Britain's retailers, and it's not set to get better any time soon.
These latest figures will also fuel the fear that the economy may have
For a quarter of a century, she's been the reassuring and trusted
voice of BBC Radio 4, but today the newsreader Charlotte Green will be
hanging up her headphones after her last day behind the microphone. As
David Silitto reports, millions will miss her impeccable diction,
unflappable poise, and her very With the BBC News, Charlotte Green.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in favour. Oh the last 25
years, millions of us have woken up with Charlotte, that calm, warm,
yet authoritative voice has stirred feelings. They send me Valentine's
cards, and rather sweet letters. There is a certain wistfulness in
them. We have been very lucky. People have been lovely in the
things we have said to them. Nine men have gone on trial at the Old
Bailey. This is a very radio type of fame. She needed a good deal a
gentle coaching to even agree to appear on camera. But even on Radio
we sometimes get a glimpse of the Real Charlotte. She is professional,
classy, smooth, unflappable, with an iron grip, except when it fails
completely and she breaks down. The American historians have discovered
what they think is the earliest The award-winning screenwriter
Abbey man has died at the age of 80. Excuse me, Surrey. He also warned
that several Emmys -- excuse me, sorry. That was including one in
1973. For a film which featured... A police detective, called....
is a sad day. I feel very emotional insight. I didn't think I was going
to, but the end of the day, when I Never again will bedtime be Coco,
the shipping forecast. -- the Now, before weather forecast and a
moment, but we are being blanketed in snow, although in Sydney,
Australia they have had their hottest day on record. Here, of
course, a different situation, with widespread destruction --
disruption. Let's speak to Louise Hubble, who was in Leicester.
Sophie, a lot of people enjoying the snow, but it is causing
widespread disruption. Hundreds of schools are closed across the
Midlands, and as the snow moves east, the real concern is icy roads.
Rail passengers are being advised to check for their trouble. 300
schools. There is of course more snow forecast in the east as week
move through the week many businesses are considering closing
early for people to get home because of the disruption, and a
lot of schools are closing early. But there is one heart-warming tame
-- tale, one bride in Shropshire was so determined to get to her
wedding, she decided to travel to the judge by tractor. More snow to
come, as we have been saying. Louise is here with the fall
I I hope you have been well-worn. We still have a red warning in
force because there is heavy snow. It is starting to ease away. We see
we have got this no pushing north and east, and it does fragment
slyly. The red warning is in force for South Wales, and there are 10
centimetres. And if we are not snow in the morning, there is still the
potential for another three or five centimetres of snow, perhaps driven
by the strong easterly wind. A cold afternoon, and the Snow sits across
North Wales and the south-east corner. Starting to fragment
somewhat, so showers for the rest of the afternoon. They could be a
bit of a wintry mix. Snow showers continued, and it is bitterly cold.
Temperatures were below freezing. There is increasing chance of
further snow to come through the evening. The same in the north-east
of Scotland, driven in by the strong winds. The threat of snow
continues for north-east Scotland, and for Northern Ireland
potentially overnight. And amber warnings are continuing. Snow
showers across the peaks and Pennines. A cold night to follow,
with temperatures falling below freezing. Yes, it will be a frosty
and icy start to Saturday. Widespread ice is likely, snow
covering freezing solidly, so take care in the morning. The winds will
swing around to an easterly breeze, but as the day continues this snow
showers he's away, but if cold prospect for the weekend.
Temperatures just a degree or so it might -- a degree or so. The start
of the week, bitterly cold, frost and ice, but there is also the risk
of further snow on Sunday. It is this area of low pressure and the
front that will drift up through the Continent affecting eastern
England during the early hours of Sunday, so risk of heavy snowfall
for eastern England. If you are travelling on Sunday, keep watching
the weather forecast. This may be subject to change, but a bitterly
cold day in prospect on Sunday for A reminder of the top storey. The
hostage crisis in Algeria continues. David Cameron says British workers
are still at risk, but not as many as first thought. We understand