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Hostages missing after Algeria raid on In Amenas plant
Published On: January 18, 2013, 00:27 GMT
 
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Hostages missing after Algeria raid on In Amenas plant

The remote facility is close to the Libyan border 1,300km south-east of Algiers


An Algerian army operation to free hostages at a gas facility in the desert has left a number of Islamist militants and their captives missing.

State TV said four foreign hostages had been killed in the raid. The militants had claimed to be holding 41.

Some hostages were freed, but the number of survivors was unconfirmed and UK officials said they were preparing for news of many British casualties.

Al-Qaeda-linked fighters occupied the facility near In Amenas on Wednesday.

During Thursday's raid many Algerian and four foreign hostages - two from Scotland, one from France and one from Kenya - were freed, state news agency APS reported.

The Irish government confirmed that one of its citizens was free. Five American hostages had survived and left the country, US officials told ABC News.

Japan said three of its nationals had been freed in the operation, but that 14 remained unaccounted for.

Earlier, the militants reportedly said that at least 34 hostages and 14 kidnappers died, and that seven foreign hostages had survived.

Late on Thursday. AFP news agency quoted Algerian officials as saying the army had not secured the whole site and that it was still being searched.

The militants said they had taken hostages in retaliation for French military intervention in neighbouring Mali.

Algerian Communications Minister Mohamed Said Belaid said a "significant number of terrorists" had been killed.

He added: "Unfortunately, we deplore some deaths and some people wounded. We don't yet have the numbers," he said.
Grave concern

BBC political editor Nick Robinson says British ministers are still awaiting information from the Algerian government on the number of British dead, adding that up to 20 hostages were still thought to be unaccounted for.

Details of how the raid unfolded were slow to emerge.

APS reported that the Algerian military, which had been surrounding the gas plant, had targeted two vehicles as they tried to escape from the site with an unknown number of people on board.

Militants told local media that Algerian forces had used helicopter gunships in the operation.

Irish Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore said one Irish hostage, Stephen McFaul, escaped in the confusion when the army tried to stop the militants moving their captives in a convoy of around five vehicles.

Mr McFaul and other hostages were made to wear vests covered in plastic explosives as they were being moved, Mr Gilmore told CNN.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said he was told by his Algerian counterpart that the army "felt they had no choice but to go in".

Mr Cameron, who cancelled a key speech on Europe scheduled for Friday, made it clear that he would have preferred to have been told in advance, a spokesman said.

APS reported that the Algerian military, which had been surrounding the gas plant, had targeted two vehicles as they tried to escape from the site with an unknown number of people on board.

Militants told local media that Algerian forces had used helicopter gunships in the operation.

Irish Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore said one Irish hostage, Stephen McFaul, escaped in the confusion when the army tried to stop the militants moving their captives in a convoy of around five vehicles.

Mr McFaul and other hostages were made to wear vests covered in plastic explosives as they were being moved, Mr Gilmore told CNN.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said he was told by his Algerian counterpart that the army "felt they had no choice but to go in".

Mr Cameron, who cancelled a key speech on Europe scheduled for Friday, made it clear that he would have preferred to have been told in advance, a spokesman said.


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