Algeria’s APS state news agency reported that the military operation against militants who took foreign hostages at the In Amenas gas facility in the eastern part of the country has ended.
However, media reports indicate that about 35 hostages (mostly European nationals) had been killed during the chaotic seizure of the facility and the subsequent siege.
It is unclear what fate befell the militants, who were reportedly led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a well-known al-Qaeda-linked warlord.
A local worker at the gas plant told France’s Le Monde newspaper that one of the militants spoke English with a “perfect accent” and that the militants knew the complex very well.
Al Jazeera reported earlier that 35 hostages and 15 kidnappers were killed during the initial seizure of the plant and subsequent government siege.
Ennahar TV, a private Algerian channel, said that 15 foreigners escaped during the initial phase of the kidnapping, while Reuters quoted another security official as saying there were 25 who found their way to safety.
Islamist militants tied to al-Qaeda seized the facility on Wednesday to protest France’s military intervention in the neighboring country of Mali. The French expedition, designed to root out Islamic rebels who have taken over the northern half of the country, was apparently facilitated by Algeria, which provided its airspace to French military aircraft.
The gas facility in question is located near the Libyan border and is jointly run by BP (NYSE: BP), the Algerian state oil company Sonatrach and Norwegian energy giant Statoil (Oslo: STL).