Algiers (AsiaNews / Agencies) - An Algerian security forces attack on the gas complex in the desert, has resulted in many dead among the Islamist militants and their hostages.
But still, information on the dead and their identities is unclear. The militants - through a Mauritanian news agency, say that many hostages were killed, along with a dozen Islamists, the Algerian state news agency says that 600 Algerians were released along with four foreigners - two Britons, a Kenyan, a French . Other sources say that there were at least 30 deaths, but have not specified their nationalities.
In the afternoon the Algerian state news agency said that "about 60 foreigners are still being held".
Several governments have confirmed the release of some hostages, but still do not know the situation of at least 20 of them, if they have been killed, injured, or escaped.
The Irish government has confirmed that their compatriot was released, the United States claims that five Americans are free and have already left the country, and Japan confirmed that three of its countrymen are free, but the fate of the other 14 is unknown.
The Algerian forces attack was decided yesterday afternoon and carried out without consulting the countries concerned. Diplomatic offices of France, Norway, Ireland, Great Britain, United States and Japan have criticized Algeria for being left in the dark.
The drama began two days ago, when a group of Islamists occupied the Tigantourine industrial gas production complex, which is located a few kilometers from In Amenas, 1300 km south-east of Algiers and a few dozen kilometers from the Libyan border.
According to the Algerian authorities, the group is under the command of Mokhtar Belmokhtar (see photo), former chief of "Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb." The newspaper Tout sur l'Algerie states that "the terrorists have penetrated the Algerian territory passing from the Libyan border. They belong to the Bouchenab group under the command of Mokhtar Belmokhtar. The group is very active in Mali."
The militants announced that among the reasons for the terrorist attack was France's military intervention in Mali and Algeria, which is giving technical support to the operation.
Tigantourine plants are operated by BP with the Algerian state oil company, Sonatrach, and the Norwegian company Statoil. The natural gas will be sold mostly in Europe.