The Algerian forces are trying to take control of the gas facility near In Amenas operated by BP plc (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP). Islamic extremist occupied the gas field Wednesday after killing a British national and an Algerian.
Reports, quoting militants, said that 14 kidnappers and 34 hostages have died in air strikes by the Algerian army. The militants said that they were trying to transport hostages to a safer place, but Algerian air strikes didn't give them a chance.
APS news agency reported that about 600 Algerian workers have been freed. During the operation, two Scottish hostages, one French and a Kenyan hostage escaped. The agency said that 15 foreigners and 30 locals had already escaped from the gas facility before the military intervened.
The Irish foreign ministry said that an Irish, who was among the hostages, has been freed and is safe. He had phoned his family to inform that he was safe.
The Norwegian and British governments confirmed that military operations are underway. British prime minister David Cameron was informed about the operation by his Algerian counterpart after operations began.
Accord to media reports, Cameron said that he should have been informed in advance, but Algerian prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal told him that they had to act "immediately."
So far, no governments or companies have confirmed reports of deaths. British Petroleum said that it was aware of the casualties, but it doesn't have any reliable or confirmed information.
The British government has tsaid that it wants to work with the Algerian government to peacefully resolve the issue. The operation continues and is being conducted single-handedly by the Algerian authorities, but the U.K. government is in constant contact.
A British spokesman said that Algerians haven't sought military assistance. Mr. Cameron has also discussed the issue with French president Francois Hollande and the U.S. president Barack Obama.
Islamic extremists affiliated to Al-Qaeda kidnapped about 40 foreigners Wednesday, threatening the countries that are trying to blunt the influence of militant groups in African countries. The kidnappings took place a few days after France sent troops to help the Malian army uproot the Al-Qaeda affiliated militant groups in Mali.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, also referred to as AQIM, the biggest target of France, has taken responsibility for the kidnappings at BP plc (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP)'s Algerian site. AQIM said their actions were revenge for France's recent action. The militant group originated in Algeria and operates in a number of African countries.
Ireland, Japan, Norway, Austria, the U.S., the U.K and France have all confirmed that their citizens were kidnapped at the site. The operation has been extremely more complex because so the hostages are from so many different nations; to make it eve more complicated, Algeria has stated that it won't negotiate with the militants.
"Algeria has always condemned the payment of ransoms to terrorist groups, because that's a boost to the kidnapping industry," said Jean-Charles Brisard, an international consultant specializing in terrorism.
Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida urged Algeria to make securing lives of the hostages their top priority. Japan has also sent a team of senior officials to Algeria to deal with the issue on the ground.
Norwegian foreign ministry is also communicating with Algeria and other countries whose citizens are kidnapped. "Algeria has the main responsibility, this is in Algeria and Algeria must be in the drivers' seat for what's going to happen," said Norway's foreign minister Espen Barth Eide.
In another incident, Al-Shabab, the most dangerous militant group in Somalia said that it has killed the French hostage that french forces tried to rescue last Saturday. Al-Shabad said that agent Denis Allex was killed on Wednesday. A raid by French military on early Saturday failed to rescue him.
French officials later said that 17 Somalis and two French soldiers died in the raid. Al-Shabab said that many villagers also lost lives due to French attack.
The Islamic extremists posted on the Internet on Wednesday that they killed Allex in retaliation of the Saturday's operation.
During a press conference in Paris, French president Francois Hollande said that the hostage crisis in Algeria further proves that France's decision to attack Islamic militants in Mali was the correct move. "What's happening in Algeria justifies even more the decision I took in the name of France to go to Mali's aid," Hollande said.
Just a few moments ago Algerian communications minister confirmed the casualties. "Unfortunately we deplore some deaths and some people wounded. We don't yet have the numbers. The operation has just ended, according to the official.