A group of al-Qaeda militants snuck over the border from Mali into Algeria on Wednesday morning and claims to have taken 41 hostages from a gas production facility. Earlier reports were that one person was killed and a handful of foreign citizens were kidnapped, but the situation appears to have become larger and more serious than previously imagined.
The group attacked the Amenas gas facility in southern Algeria, which is a joint operation between Algeria's state oil company, a Norwegian firm, and BP. The latest reports indicate that two people were killed, including a British and a French citizen, and as many 41 foreign nationals were kidnapped, including French, British, Japanese, Norwegian, Irish, and American citizens. The militants may have hijacked a bus carrying workers to the facility. BP only confirmed that there was a "security incident' at the facility, but would not release any other details.
The militant group that claimed responsibility, calls itself Katibat Moulathamine (the Masked Brigade) and claims to be linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic Maghreb fighters who have seized control of Northern Mali and carried out other operations in the Sahara Desert. French military forces descended on Mali this week to stop the advance of the Islamic militants that have threatened to overthrow Mali's interim government. In response, the Islamists have threatened to take action against French citizens in Africa, and even to strike out within France itself. French security services have been placed on high alert, particularly at tourist destinations and other high-profile targets in Paris.