Hostage rescue in Algeria still underway© REUTERS/ Kjetil Alsvik / Statoil/Handout
Hostage rescue in Algeria still underway© AFP 2013/ Statoil / Kjetil Alsvik
DUBAI, January 17 (RIA Novosti) – A military operation to free hostages held by Islamic militants at a natural gas production facility in eastern Algeria is continuing while the final death count is yet to be determined, Algerian Communications Minister Mohamed Said Belaid said on Thursday.
“The operation is still underway until all hostages are freed,” the minister said in a statement on Algerian television.
"Unfortunately we deplore some deaths and some people wounded. We don't yet have the numbers," he said, adding that the military raid saved the lives of many Algerian and foreign hostages.
Algerian troops stormed the facility near the eastern Algerian desert town of In Amenas earlier on Thursday after the Algerian authorities refused to negotiate with kidnappers, who seized dozens of hostages, including at least 40 foreign nationals, on Wednesday.
The terrorists from the group that calls itself the Masked Brigade and is linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have demanded the release of Islamists from Algerian prisons and an end to French military action in neighboring Mali.
Some 30 Algerians and 15 foreigners were reported to have escaped from the gas facility before the Algerian military surrounded and raided the site.
The hostage crisis comes as the French military carries out an assault in central Mali against radical Islamists who, along with a secular Tuareg rebellion, have since last March plunged the North African country back into violent turmoil.
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