Algeria: More than 100 Foreign Hostages Released
Algeria's state news agency reported that nearly 100 foreign hostages seized by Islamist militants at a remote natural gas plant have been released.
Friday's report, citing an unnamed security source, said militants seized a total 132 foreign hostages when they attacked the complex in eastern Algeria on Wednesday.
The agency said the Algerian military operation at the site is ongoing, and that special forces are negotiating with militants still holding a group of hostages.
There has been no Western confirmation of the reports. The hostages at the site are believed to include nationals from the U.S., Britain, Japan, Norway, Romania, the Philippines, France, Malaysia and Austria.
Officials in the U.S., Britain and other countries have said they are seeking information about developments at the plant - while expressing regret Algeria did not inform them in advance about the military operation.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told lawmakers Friday that he got an update from Algeria's prime minister. "He said that the terrorists had tried to flee, that they judged there to be an immediate threat to the lives of the hostages and had felt obliged to respond," said Cameron.
"When I spoke to to the Algerian prime minister later last night he told me that this first operation was complete but this is a large and complex site and they are still pursuing terrorists and possibly some of the hostages in other areas of the site," added Cameron.
The Algerian Press Service reported earlier Friday that more than 570 Algerians have been freed in the military operation. It was not clear whether all of those Algerians had been taken hostage or were hiding within the complex.
The White House said Friday that President Obama is getting regular updates from security officials on the situation in Algeria.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is in London and met with Prime Minister Cameron on Friday. Officials said they discussed Algeria, Mali, and other issues.
During a speech at London's King's College, Panetta said terrorists who attack Americans "will have no refuge - not in Algeria, not in North Africa, not anywhere."
Speaking during a trip to Perth, Australia, British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned the Algerian kidnapping is part of a much more worrisome problem.
"This terrible incident of terrorism has highlighted again the threat in North Africa and the Sahel, from international terrorism, and working with our international partners we will maintain our resolve to see that threat countered and defeated and al-Qaida denied a foothold on Europe's southern border," said Cameron.
In France, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls also raised concerns about militant groups and links to Europe.
``For years, there have been French jihadis who have gone to fight a war in Afghanistan, in Syria, and a very small handful in the Sahel," he said. "They are obviously being watched by our intelligence agencies.''
At least six foreign captives have been confirmed safe by their governments - three Japanese, two French workers and an Irishman.
The militants, who say they attacked the facility in retaliation for French military operations on Mali, on Friday threatened more attacks. A spokesman for the group told the Mauritanian news agency ANI that Algerian forces should stay away from foreign companies, vowing to strike "where it is least expected."
The gas complex, located on a base in a remote area of the desert, is jointly run by Algerian, British and Norwegian firms.
Article by VOA News