Thirty-five foreign hostages have been killed by Algerian forces who launched air strikes on the BP gas plant seized by al-Qaeda-linked terrorists, militants claimed today.
Soldiers from the Saharan state attacked the gas field where dozens of Westerners including Britons and Americans were being held in revenge for France's assault on al-Qaeda rebels in neighbouring Mali.
Helicopters began strafing the plant this morning, hours after the rebels had threatened to blow up the hostages if they intervened.
Fifteen kidnappers, who had semtex strapped to their vests, were also reportedly killed at the Amenas field, deep in the Saharan south east of the country.
Terrorist orchestrator Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a one-eyed Islamist known as The Uncatchable, is believed to be among them.
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Terror: Two British men are now feared dead after dozens of gas plant workers were taken hostage by miltants, believed to be led by veteran jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar (above)
Bloodbath: Helicopters began strafing the plant in In Amenas (above) this morning, hours after the rebels had threatened to blow up the hostages if they intervened
A spokesman for the Masked Brigade, which had earlier claimed responsibility for the assault said Abou El Baraa, the leader of the kidnappers, was also killed in the helicopter attack.
The information came from the Nouakchott Information Agency, which has often carried reports from al-Qaida-linked extremist groups.
The militant spokesman said the kidnappers were attacked by Algerian helicopters when they attempted to leave the complex.
A source in the town said six foreign hostages and eight of their captors were killed in the strike on a vehicle being used by the kidnappers.
The source said some hostages were still being held while 180 Algerian citizens had escaped.
The British Foreign Office has not confirmed any details of the air strike, only saying that there was an 'ongoing operation' underway.
Prime Minister David Cameron is due to chair another meeting of COBRA, the Government's emergency response committee, this morning.
The Algerian government would not immediately comment on the standoff and the Associated Press was not able to independently confirm the information.
The reports came as the family of an Irishman being held have made a desperate plea for his release.
Earlier, 25 foreign hostages, including Americans and two Japanese, were said to have escaped from their captors.
Fifteen kidnappers, who had semtex strapped to their vests, were also reportedly killed at the Amenas field (pictured), deep in the Saharan south east of the country
British workers are among at least eight foreigners abducted today by al-Qaeda militants from the BP-operated Amenas natural gas field (above) field in Algeria
The development came after it emerged British hostages being held with up to 45 other foreign nationals and up to 150 Algerians have been forced to wear explosive belts.
Sources claimed that two UK nationals had already been killed in the attack by around 20 al-Qaeda militants.
While some 30 Algerian workers are said to have also escaped, some of the western hostages are said to be primed to explode if the authorities intervene.
An Algerian security source said the gunmen, who stormed the gas facility on Wednesday, were also demanding safe passage out with their captives.
One hostage, identified as British, spoke to Al Jazeera television and called on the Algerian army to withdraw from the area to avoid casualties.
'We are receiving care and good treatment from the kidnappers. The (Algerian) army did not withdraw and they are firing at the camp,' the man said.
'We say to everybody that negotiations is a sign of strength and will spare many any loss of life,' he said, adding that there were about 150 Algerian hostages in custody.
Another hostage, identified as Irish, told the Qatar-based channel: 'The situation is deteriorating.
'We have contacted the embassies and we call the Algerian army to withdraw... we are worried because of the continuation of the firing.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2263785/Algeria-gas-plant-crisis-Thirty-hostages-killed-15-captors-dead-siege-Two-Brits-feared-victims.html#ixzz2IF7sLspW
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