Conflicting reports are coming out of Algeria, where a military strike at the In Amenas gas facility has reportedly led to deaths of both hostages and kidnappers. Algerian authorities confirm “ongoing operations” to deal with the kidnapping. The Algerian government has stated it refused demands from the kidnappers, Islamist militants, for safe passage to Libya.
Reports say 6 hostages and 8 kidnappers were killed in the strike. As many as 25 hostages are believed to have gotten away, and 7 are still in the custody of the kidnappers. Other reports have listed higher numbers of dead, including one that states more than 150 Algerian hostages killed. It is uncertain if those hostages were also taken from the facility.
The crisis began Wednesday when a group of Algerian gunmen attacked a bus heading to an airfield from the In Amenas gas facility. Onboard were several foreign nationals, which were subsequently kidnapped. Two people were killed during the initial firefight.
Further hostages were then taken from nearby living quarters for facility workers. Reports indicate the assorted hostages originate from Norway, UK, Ireland, Romania, Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, Colombia, South Korea, Austria, and the United States. France refuses to comment on reports a French citizen is included. The kidnapping is reportedly tied to French attacks on Mali, part of anti-terror efforts there by the French government.
The kidnappers are believed to be militants serving Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a notorious figure in the region. He has been convicted of terrorism (in absentia) in Algeria.
The gas field, a joint operation from BP, Statoil, and Sonatrach, is located 1,300 kilometers southeast of Algerian capital Algiers, and 60 kilometers west of the Libyan border.