Al Qaeda abducts eight foreign workers in Algeria

Last Updated: Wed, Jan 16, 2013 16:00 hrs

London, Jan 16 (IANS) At least eight people including British, Norwegian and Japanese nationals were kidnapped Wednesday by suspected Al Qaeda militants from a British Petroleum (BP) natural gas field in Algeria, media reports said.

Algerian forces, however, caught up with and surrounded the kidnappers and negotiations for the release of the hostages were going on, an official told the Daily Mail.

The attack took place at 2 a.m. and the militants came from Mali where Britain was helping France fight the Al Qaeda. A security guard was killed in the attack and seven others were wounded.

Citing Ennahar TV, Xinhua said the attack occurred in Illizi province.

The British foreign office said the facility was in Ain Amenas, around 100 km from the Libyan border.

According to reports, there were five Japanese, one French national and one from Northern Ireland among those kidnapped.

Mauritania's ANI news agency, which has regular direct contact with Islamists, said that militants under the command of Mokhtar Belmokhtar were holding the foreigners.

Belmokhtar for years commanded Al Qaeda fighters in the Sahara before setting up his own armed Islamist group last year after a fallout with other militants.

BP, together with Norwegian company Statoil and Algerian state oil company Sonatrach, operate the gas field. A Japanese company, JGC Corp, provides services for the facility as well.

Statoil said it has 20 employees in the facility.

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