The BBC reports that militants have claimed “at least 34 hostages and 14 kidnappers” have died at the scene after the Algerian army attacked the Ain Amenas complex owned by BP.
Reuters have reported that six foreigners have been killed and 25 have escaped. However, no hostage deaths have been officially confirmed. Several British citizens are among those who have been kidnapped.
Hundreds of native Algerian workers have been allowed to escape – reportedly between 180 and 600.
Conflicting reports have suggest a number of differing casualty numbers.
The militants, who called themselves Battalion of Blood and are thought to be linked to al-Qaida, invaded the complex in protest against French military operations in neighbouring Mali.
Prime Minister David Cameron was not informed by Algeria that its army was engaging the kidnappers and was said to be “extremely concerned”.
Cameron was “told that an operation was under way only when he telephoned the Algerian prime minister at 11.30am today”.
“I can’t talk about the tragic events now unfolding in Algeria…there is contradictory information…It’s an extremely dramatic situation that shows how terrorism is an absolute evil,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has told reporters.
The Algerian government had eariler refused to negotiate with the kidnappers.
Citizens from America, Britain, France, Norway, and Japan were taken hostage earlier today on their way to the airport.