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Hundreds freed

Algerian men who survived from the gas facility in Algeria where Islamist militants were holding hostages, are seen leaving a hospital in In Amenas today.


ALGEIRS — Islamist militants are believed to be still holding a number of hostages at a gas facility in the Algerian desert.

At least four foreign workers and several militants died yesterday when troops stormed the living quarters.

The militants had claimed to be holding 41 foreigners. At least four were freed but the fate of many others is unknown.

Meanwhile, BP said hundreds of workers from international oil companies had been evacuated from Algeria on Thursday and that many more would follow.

Algeria has yet to give precise casualty figures from the rescue attempt.

The state-run APS news agency cited local officials as saying two Britons and two Filipinos were killed. Two others, a Briton and an Algerian, died on Wednesday when the militants ambushed a bus that was taking foreign workers at the facility to the local airport.

The press service said today that an Algerian military operation freed 650 hostages, including 100 foreigners. At least 30 foreign workers are still unaccounted for, according to the unconfirmed media report.

A spokesman for the militants told the Mauritanian ANI news agency that 35 hostages and 15 militants had been killed in yesterday’s operation. One Algerian official said the figures were “exaggerated”.

The In Amenas gas field is operated by the Algerian state oil company, Sonatrach, along with the British oil company BP and Norway’s Statoil.

It is situated at Tigantourine, about 40km (25 miles) south-west of the town of In Amenas and 1,300km (800 miles) south-east of Algiers.

This morning, the UK Foreign Office and Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said they believed the incident was ongoing.

“Parts of the plant are under Algerian authorities’ control, and other parts are not. This information is changing by the hour,” Eide told the BBC.

APS cited local officials as saying the military operation at the gas facility’s living quarters, where most of the hostages were held, had ended on Thursday night.

“Hostages are still being held at the Tigantourine gas treatment plant, which is surrounded by special forces,” APS added.

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