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Many hostages and kidnappers reported killed by Algerian forces at In Amenas gas plant

17 January 2013

News agencies are saying that many people have been killed after Algerian forces opened fire on a vehicle at the remote Tigantourine gas plant near In Amenas, Eastern Algeria, where gunmen were holding dozens of Western hostages. An unnamed resident told Reuters there were many bodies at the scene but he did not say whether they were kidnappers, hostages or both.

The Tigantourine gas plant near In Amenas, Eastern Algeria
The Tigantourine gas plant near In Amenas, Eastern Algeria

Mauritania's ANI news agency, which has been in constant contact with the kidnappers, reported that 34 of the captives and 15 of the captors had been killed when government forces fired from helicopters while the kidnappers were trying to move some of their prisoners in a convoy of vehicles. Abou El Baraa, the leader of the kidnappers, was also reportedly killed in the helicopter attack.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera television carried a similar report. These details could not be immediately confirmed.

ANI quoted a spokesman for the kidnappers as saying they would kill the rest of their captives if the army approached. 

An Algerian security source said 25 foreign hostages had escaped the besieged compound, including two Japanese. The source told Reuters the captors had demanded safe passage out with their prisoners. Algeria has refused to negotiate with what it says is a band of about 20 fighters.

A group calling itself the Masked Brigade says it seized 41 foreigners, including Americans, Japanese and Europeans, after storming the gas pumping station and its employee barracks before dawn on January 16..

The attackers have demanded an end to the French military campaign in Mali, where hundreds of French paratroopers and marines are launching a ground offensive against rebels a week after Paris began firing on militants from the air.

A Briton was among two people killed on January 16, after fighters launched an ambush of a bus carrying employees from the gas plant to the nearby airport.

Norwegians, Americans, Japanese and French citizens were among the hostages. More than 100 Algerians were also held, but it is believed some of them have been released. 

The In Amenas gas field is jointly operated by British oil giant BP, Norway's Statoil and Algeria's Sonatrach

Update: At 15.00 GMT Algeria's APS news agency said two British hostages from Scotland, a Kenyan and a French hostage have been freed by the army.The agency earlier said that half the foreign hostages had been freed, without giving numbers or nationality. There were several victims in the operation to free the hostages, the same sources said. 

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