EL WATAN (Algeria), LE MONDE,AFP ( France)
Two people were killed and as many as 41 Westerners were taken hostage in an attack Wednesday by an Islamist group at a gas treatment facility in Algeria.
A British citizen and an Algerian are believed to be dead and six other people wounded in the assault early Wednesday morning at a plant jointly run by by the Algerian state oil company Sonatrach, Norway's Statoil and British Petroleum, AFP reports.
Local media reports say the raid in Tigantourine, 1600 kilometers southeast of the capital of Algiers, is a response to France's recent launching of air and ground assault in neighboring Mali to oust Islamic rebels who control the northern part of that country.
Algerian daily El Watan reports that the raid took place at 5 a.m. local time, with the heavily armed attackers arriving in three vehicles and targeting a bus transporting foreign workers at the gas treatment facility. Among the foreign nationals reported to be held hostage are Americans, British, Japanese and Norwegians.
Speaking on national television Wednesday night, Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia said authorities would not negotiate with the captors, El Watan reported. Kablia said authorities put the current number of Western hostages "around 20."
The group taking responsibility has links to the well-known terrorist outfit Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which is allied with the Islamist rebels that have taken over vast swaths of territory in northern Mali. Last Friday, France launched a major military operation to oust the Islamist rebels.