Some hostages have been killed while others have escaped the Algerian gas facility where at least 20 foreigners and more than 100 Algerians were kidnapped yesterday by al Qaeda-linked militants.
Local sources tell Reuters that six foreign hostages and eight militants have been killed in an Algerian airstrike.
Al Jazeera and others, citing the kidnappers, reported that 34 hostages and 15 hostage takers were killed.
A diplomatic source confirmed to CBS News that hostages and some of their captors have been killed.
One of the kidnappers tells Mauritania’s ANI news agency that seven hostages — two Americans, three Belgians, one Japanese and one British citizen — are remaining at the facility.
This is a fluid situation, here’s the latest.
On Wednesday at least 20 jihadists killed two foreigners, including a British national, and kidnapped at least 20 more — including American, French, British, Japanese and Norwegian citizens — in a raid at the In Amenas oil field near the Algeria-Libya border.
A French national told France24 that the hostages have been forced to wear explosive belts and that the militants are heavily armed. French President François Hollande says there are still French nationals at the desert complex.
The facility, the fourth-largest gas development in Algeria, is jointly operated by British oil giant BP, Norway’s Statoil and Algeria’s Sonatrach.
The attackers, reportedly members of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), initially demanded a halt of French attacks in northern Mali and the release of 100 militants being held in Algeria in exchange for the safety of kidnapped hostages. An Algerian security source tells Reuters that they now demand safe passage out of the oil field — which has been surrounded for hours by Algerian forces — with the captives.
U.S. officials also told CNN that they believe the attack originated in Libya, the border of which lies 60 miles from the facility, and the “level of planning suggests that this was in train before the French overflights ever took place.”
Officials told CNN the Commanders In-extremis Force “is on a very short string” but the situation is dicey since there is little solid information. “If you’re talking dozens of militants and up to 40 hostages, I don’t see how you go in without killing half the hostages,” one official said.
“He’s one of the best known warlords of the Sahara,” said Stephen Ellis, an expert on organised crime and professor at the African Studies Centre in the Netherlands, told Al-Arabiya.
Jihadists in the area built an empire off ransom payments and drug trafficking.
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