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At least 48 hostages are now thought to have died in a four-day siege at In Amenas gas facility in Algeria, as reports say that 25 bodies found at the complex on Sunday were all those of captives.

It had initially been unclear whether the bodies found were those of hostage-takers or staff at the facility.

A search is continuing at the In Amenas gas plant, where as many as 20 hostages remain unaccounted for.

Five suspected Islamist attackers were reportedly arrested on Sunday.

The Algerian authorities had said on Saturday that all 32 hostage-takers had been killed. The suspected organizer of the attack, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has said in a statement that 40 militants took part.

The siege was ended in a raid by troops on Saturday. Officials say a definitive death toll will be released later.

Officials said the army launched its assault after Islamist militants began killing foreign hostages.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama have blamed “terrorists” for the hostages’ deaths.

And on Sunday French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the hostage-taking as an “act of war”.

“What strikes me the most is that we’re saying <<hostage-taking>> but when there are so many people concerned, I think this is an act of war,” he told French TV.

At least 48 hostages are now thought to have died in a four-day siege at In Amenas gas facility in Algeria

At least 48 hostages are now thought to have died in a four-day siege at In Amenas gas facility in Algeria

As Western leaders condemned the kidnappings, Algerian Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi said Algeria would boost security at its energy installations without outside help.

“It is out of the question to allow foreign security forces to handle the security of our oil facilities,” he said, quoted by Algeria’s APS news agency.

During a visit to the affected plant, Youcef Yousfi said it would resume production within two days.

The private TV channel Ennahar said security forces had discovered the bodies of 25 hostages as they searched the complex for booby-traps and mines.

The militants had threatened to blow up the site and kill their hostages, officials said.

Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who is not thought to have been among the actual attackers, said his group had carried out the attack. He was speaking in a video message carried by the Mauritanian website Sahara Media.

The website said the video had been recorded on January 17 while the siege was still going on but not posted on the website.

It shows Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who has convictions in absentia for murder, kidnapping and terrorism, saying he was prepared to negotiate with Western and Algerian leaders if operations against Islamists in Mali were stopped.

In other developments:

  • Six      Filipinos were killed and four are missing, the government in Manila      confirmed
  • Three      Britons were confirmed dead, and a further three are missing, feared dead.      UK officials were “working hard” to locate the missing, said      Foreign Secretary William Hague
  • A      Colombian citizen resident in the UK, Carlos Estrada, is thought to be      among the dead, the Colombian president has said
  • Japanese      officials said they had no confirmation of the fate of 10 nationals who      remained unaccounted for, despite reports that nine had died
  • Romania’s      foreign ministry said one of its citizens had died in hospital after      sustaining severe injuries during the siege. Another Romanian has already      been reported killed and as many as three others have been freed
  • Two Malaysians are unaccounted for, as are five Norwegians

State news agency APS said 685 Algerian workers and 107 out of 132 foreigners working at the plant had been freed, citing interior ministry figures.

The nationalities of some of the hostages killed are still not known.

The crisis began on Wednesday when militants attacked two buses carrying foreign workers to the remote site in south-eastern Algeria. A Briton and an Algerian reportedly died in the incident.

The militants then took Algerians and expatriates hostage at the complex, which was quickly surrounded by the Algerian army.

A statement from the kidnappers said the assault on the gas plant was launched in retaliation for French intervention against Islamist groups in neighboring Mali.

However, France only decided last week to intervene militarily in Mali. Analysts say the assault on the gas facility was well-planned and would have required advance research, as well as possibly inside help.

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About 650 hostages have been freed from militants at the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria, state media report, but about 60 foreigners are still being held.

State-run APS news agency said those freed at the In Amenas installation included 573 Algerians and more than half of 132 foreign workers.

The militants remained holed up at the site and the Algerian army wanted a “peaceful end” to the crisis, APS said.

At least four foreign workers died when troops moved in on Thursday.

A “comprehensive total” of the hostages still held was not available and some of them had taken refuge at various points around the site, a security source told APS.

The installation had been put out of action to avoid the risk of an explosion, the agency reported.

Meanwhile, BP said on Friday that hundreds of workers from international oil companies had been evacuated from Algeria on Thursday and that many more would follow.

On Friday morning, a spokesman for the group thought to be behind the attack told the Mauritanian ANI agency that it would carry out further operations.

He warned Algerians to “stay away from the installations of foreign companies as we will strike where it is least expected”.

Algeria has yet to give precise casualty figures from Thursday’s rescue attempt.

The state-run APS news agency cited local officials as saying two Britons and two Filipinos were killed. Two others, a Briton and an Algerian, died on Wednesday when the militants ambushed a bus that was taking foreign workers at the facility to the local airport.

A spokesman for the militants told the ANI agency that 35 hostages and 15 militants had been killed in Thursday’s operation. One Algerian official said the figures were “exaggerated”.

About 650 hostages have been freed from militants at the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria, but about 60 foreigners are still being held

About 650 hostages have been freed from militants at the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria, but about 60 foreigners are still being held

The In Amenas gas field is operated by the Algerian state oil company, Sonatrach, along with the British oil company BP and Norway’s Statoil.

It is situated at Tigantourine, about 40 km (25 miles) south-west of the town of In Amenas and 1,300 km (800 miles) south-east of Algiers.

APS cited local officials as saying the military operation at the gas facility’s living quarters, where most of the hostages were held, had ended on Thursday night.

“Hostages are still being held at the Tigantourine gas treatment plant, which is surrounded by special forces,” APS added.

Later, UK Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament that he had been told by his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmalek Sellal, that troops were “still pursuing terrorists and possibly some of the hostages”.

Japanese officials were meanwhile quoted as saying by the Kyodo news agency that at least 14 Japanese nationals were still missing. At least three managed to escape.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, expressed “deep regret” at the actions of the Algerian security forces and its foreign ministry summoned the Algerian ambassador.

Despite requests for communication and pleas to consider the hostages’ safety, the UK, Japan and US said they had not been told in advance about the military assault.

David Cameron said the Algerian prime minister had told him that commanders had “judged there to be an immediate threat to the lives of the hostages and had felt obliged to respond”.

Algerian Communications Minister Mohand Said Oubelaid said: “Those who think we will negotiate with terrorists are delusional.”

Norway said eight of its nationals were currently unaccounted for. One is being treated at a hospital in In Amenas, while four escaped unharmed.

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said two French workers were safe. It was unclear if another two were involved, he added.

The Irish government confirmed that one of its citizens was free. Five Americans had survived and left the country, US officials told ABC News. Austria also said one of its nationals had been released and was safe.

A worker from CIS Catering, which employs about 150 Algerians at the facility, told French media he had hidden under the bed in his room for 40 hours before being rescued.

“I put boards everywhere. I had food, water, and I did not know how long I would stay there.”

“When the soldiers came to get me, I did not even know it was over. They were with colleagues, otherwise I would never have opened the door,” he added.

A statement purporting to come from the kidnappers says the raid was carried out in retaliation for the French intervention against Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), in neighboring Mali.

The kidnapping was a complex operation which is unlikely to have been planned and carried out since the surprising French intervention in Mali last Friday.

Algerian officials said the militants were operating under orders from Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who was a senior AQIM commander until late last year.

Foreign citizens involved

  • 14 Japanese missing
  • 8 Norwegians missing
  • Significantly fewer than 30 Britons “at risk”; two Britons (from Scotland) believed to be safe
  • Unknown number of Americans
  • Possibly citizens of Romania, Thailand, the Philippines, Colombia, South Korea and Austria
  • Two French citizens safe
  • One Irish citizen from Northern Ireland safe
  • One Kenyan safe
  • One Austrian safe

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French police say four people have been taken hostage in CIC bank in the city of Toulouse by a man claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda.

The man fired a shot and demanded to speak to the elite police unit which shot Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah.

Mohamed Merah, who claimed to have al-Qaeda training, killed seven people in Toulouse in March before he was shot dead by police.

The director of the bank, a branch of CIC, is said to be among the hostages.

French police say four people have been taken hostage in CIC bank in the city of Toulouse by a man claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda

French police say four people have been taken hostage in CIC bank in the city of Toulouse by a man claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda

The regional newspaper Ouest-France says the area around the bank has been sealed off by the security forces.

“We do not know if his claim about al-Qaeda is serious or a fantasy,” a police union source told Ouest-France.

The bank is 100 metres (330 ft) from Mohamed Merah’s flat.

Mohamed Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, killed seven people in three separate attacks. His victims included three children and a teacher at a Jewish school, and three soldiers.

He was shot dead by a police sniper on 22 March after commandos stormed his flat.

In the wake of the shootings, the French authorities set up an investigation into whether Mohamed Merah had accomplices and into possible Islamist indoctrination practices in prisons.