Algeria hostages 'forced to wear bomb belts'

Published January 17th, 2013 - 10:03 GMT
A road sign near the In Amenas gas field, in eastern Algeria near the Libyan border, Algerian troops surrounded Islamists holding foreign hostages at the gas field on Thursday. (AFP Photo/Statoil/Kjetil Alsvik)
A road sign near the In Amenas gas field, in eastern Algeria near the Libyan border, Algerian troops surrounded Islamists holding foreign hostages at the gas field on Thursday. (AFP Photo/Statoil/Kjetil Alsvik)

Hostages held by Islamist militants at a gas field in Algeria have reportedly been forced to wear belts strapped with explosives, France 24 reported on Thursday.

The French television network said a hostage told the channel that his captors were heavily armed and had threatened to blow up the facility if the Algerian army tried to intervene.

The Algerian army surrounded the natural gas complex on Wednesday where dozens of hostages were being held by Islamist militants on Wednesday night in what appeared to be a retaliation for the French intervention in Mali.

“We reject all negotiations with the group, which is holding some 20 hostages from several nationalities,” the Post reported Kabila as saying on national television.

A militant group claiming responsibility said 41 foreigners, including seven Americans, and hundreds of Algerians were being held and two had been killed. U.S. Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, said the U.S. would “take all necessary and proper steps,” raising the prospect of a further escalation of the standoff.

Army helicopters circled the Ain Amenas facility, with the militants reportedly having no avenue for escape. The gas field is a joint operation between BP, Norwegian company Statoil and Algerian state-owned firm Sonatrach.

French President Francois Hollande launched an air assault on Friday against Islamist rebels in northern and western Mali.

Algeria has fought a complex conflict with Islamic militants since the early 1990s.


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