Photo: Mokhtar Belmokhtar
Twelve hostages, some of them foreign nationals, have died so far in the military operation against terrorists who took control of a remote gas treatment plant, Algeria’s communication minister said Friday.
A squad of terrorists is still holding captives in part of the sprawling complex near the Libyan border, Mohammed Said told the media.
The Algerian government said earlier Friday that roughly 100 of the 132 foreign captives had been liberated.
Authorities have taken every possible precaution against the risk of an explosion at the plant, Minister Said said.
“The situation is under control,” the minister said, adding that “the operation continues.”
Heavily armed militants from a Salafist group led by al Qaeda renegade Mokhtar Belmokhtar occupied the gas facility on Wednesday, taking hundreds of Algerian and foreign workers hostage.
The Algerian military launched its assault on Thursday.
Responding to criticism of Algeria’s tactics, Said said officials had to act immediately to avert a massacre of the captives.
The Salafists who attacked the plant said Friday that they continue to hold seven Western workers, Mauritanian news agency ANI reported.
ANI, which has been a conduit for messages from the Salafists since the start of the crisis, cited the commander of the unit that occupied the plant.
The Salafists also offered to free several U.S. hostages in exchange for the release of two Muslim militants behind bars in the United States.