A group of militants have taken dozens of foreigners hostage in the Algerian gas-rich region of In Amenas© AFP 2013/ British Petroleum Company/HO
DUBAI / MOSCOW, January 17 (RIA Novosti) - A group of militants have taken dozens of foreigners hostage in the Algerian gas-rich region of In Amenas on Wednesday, the APS news agency said.
Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould Kabila said about 20 terrorists, driving three SUVs, attacked foreign and Algerian workers at a gas facility in In Amenas. In a shootout with the facility’s security guards two people were killed and six injured.
So far, about 20 people are being held in the facility’s living quarters, Ould Kabila said. They include Norwegian, French, British, Irish, US and Japanese citizens. The building is currently surrounded by Algerian troops.
According to some reports, the hostage-takers demand the release of about 100 Islamists from Algerian prisons. Other reports say they want an end to the foreign military operation in Mali.
"The kidnappers are demanding the release of 100 terrorists being held in Algeria, in exchange for their hostages," AFP said, citing a worker at the gas complex. "[They] have demanded that these [detained] Islamists be taken to northern Mali."
Reuters said, citing a written statement from the hostage-takers received by Mauritania's ANI news agency, that the gunmen demand “an end to French military operations against Islamists in northern Mali in return for the safety of dozens of hostages.”
APS quoted Ould Kabila as saying that the Algerian authorities “will not meet the terrorists’ demands and will not enter any negotiations with them.”
The gas field, located about 100 km from the border with Libya and 1,300 km south-east of the capital, Algiers, is operated by the Algerian state oil company Sonatrach, the British oil company BP and Norway's Statoil.
In 1990s, Algeria fought a vicious counter-insurgency war against religious extremists. The period, known as the “black decade,” left about 200,000 Algerian dead. In the recent years, the country enjoyed a period of relative stability due to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s national reconciliation policy.
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