Dozens of hostages killed in Algerian gas field
Group claims retaliation for Algeria allowing France to use air space in Mali offense
Thirty-four hostages and 15 kidnappers have been killed in a southern Algerian gas field. The group holding the hostages said they seized the hostages in retaliation for Algeria allowing France uses its airspace to launch operations against rebels in northern Mali.
he reported killings came a day after dozens of foreigners and Algerians were taken hostage by heavily armed fighters near the In Amenas gas field.
A group calling themselves the Masked Brigade, which had claimed responsibility for the abductions, told Mauritanian journalists that the deaths were a result of an Algerian government helicopter attack on a convoy transporting hostages and kidnappers.
An unspecified number of people were killed in the military rescue attempt, according to Algerian news sources. Nearly 600 Algerian workers and four foreign hostages, two Britain, two Britons, a Frenchman and a Kenyan had been freed during the operation. An Irish man had also been freed.
It's been reported that 15 foreigners and 30 Algerians had managed to escape.
Abou el-Baraa, the leader of the kidnappers, was among those killed in the helicopter attack. He said the fighters would kill the rest of their captives if the army approached. Algeria has refused to negotiate with the Brigade, who they define as some 20-odd fighters.
Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould dismissed theories that the fighters had come from Libya or Mali. He said the well-armed gunmen were from Algeria itself, operating under orders from Moktar Belmoktar, al-Qaeda's strongman in the Sahara.
Seven hostages are still reportedly being held: two Americans, three Belgians, one Japanese and one British citizen. Norwegians, French, Romanian and Malaysian citizens were also among those taken hostage.
The White House said it believed Americans were among the hostages and was concerned about reports of loss of life. "This is an ongoing situation and we are seeking clarity," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
A Briton was among the two people killed on Wednesday, after fighters launched an ambush of a bus carrying employees from the gas plant to the nearby airport. The British government was not given prior notice of the Algerian government operation to release hostages and would have preferred to have been informed, a spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said.
The In Amenas gas field is jointly operated by British oil giant BP, Norway's Statoil and Algeria's Sonatrach.
France launched a major offensive against the rebel group Ansar al-Dine in Mali earlier this month to prevent them from advancing on the capital, Bamako.
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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