The United States confirms that American nationals are among the foreigners abducted after a deadly attack on a gas facility partly run by British Petroleum (BP) in Algeria.
“The best information that we have at this time is that US citizens are among the hostages,” US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Wednesday.
Nuland refused to give more details about the abducted nationals out of concern for their safety.
Meanwhile, Catering International & Services SA (CIS), a French catering company, said 150 of its Algerian employees are being held in the BP plant where militants fighting in Mali claim to have taken 41 foreign nationals hostage.
During an interview with French media, CIS CEO Regis Arnoux said a group of some 60 assailants from neighboring countries attacked the base over night.
“The Algerian Army has surrounded the base, helicopters are flying over it. We fear the worst, there are many lives at stake,” Arnoux added.
Earlier in the day, two people, including a British national, reportedly died in an attack conducted by three vehicles on a bus carrying foreign gas workers near the In Amenas gas field, west of the Libyan border.
The rebel forces fighting in Mali say they have carried out the attack to avenge Algeria's support for the French-led military operation in Mali.
On January 11, France launched an air offensive against militants controlling the north of the West African country.
The United States, Canada, Britain, Belgium, Germany and Denmark have already said they would support the French offensive against Mali.
Malian officials say many African countries have sent ground forces to support the government forces in the conflict.