Algerian Army strikes, dozens of kidnappers and hostages killed
Thursday, 17 January 2013

Algerian helicopters have attacked a group of Mali Islamists militants held up in a Saharan gas facility, reportedly killing 34 hostages and 15 of their captors. The army moved in after up to 50 captives, including dozens of foreigners, escaped.

One of the kidnappers at the Algerian gas installation  told Mauritania's ANI news agency about the government airstrikes and resulting causalities, though the information has not been independently confirmed.

The agency says the remaining hostages are two Americans, three Belgians, one Japanese and one British citizen.

The leader of the militant group, Abu al-Baraa, was also reportedly killed in the government assault.

Other local sources put the number of casualities much lower,  saying that only six hostages and eight rebels were killed in the strike. The hostages were said to have died when the Algerian army fired on a vehicle.

The UK Foreign Office has confirmed that a military operation is currently underway at the site, though no other information was forthcoming. A source in the French government also told France 24 the operation is taking place, and Norway later affirmed it as well.

Locals told Reuters that the vehicles of the hostage takers had been destroyed in the assault, and “many” dead bodies were at the scene.

Two Japanese nationals had previously been reported injured in the airstrikes.

The military operation followed the escape of an unconfirmed number of hostages, with conflicting reports putting their numbers anywhere between 20 and 200. Locals told Reuters that 180 Algerian hostages alone had managed to flee the site. Algerian soldiers have reportedly freed four of the foreign hostages, the Algerian Press Service (APS) reports. The freed hostages included two Scots, one Kenyan and one French national, the agency says.

While some Algerian media outlets report that the military has completely regained control of site, others are denying that any sort of government operation is currently underway.


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