NBC is reporting that a number of Americans are among 41 hostages taken by militants in a gas field in eastern Algeria. The U.S. State Department confirmed the hostage situation, but declined to give names “in order to protect their safety.”
The hostage situation, described as a “terrorist attack” by department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, was unfolding at a gas operation in Amenas — a joint venture including oil giant BP, Norwegian oil firm Statoil and Algerian state company Sonatrach.
“The majority of those held are Algerian nationals,” a senior U.S. official said earlier. Reuters also said that the number of U.S. citizens involved was 7, but Nuland declined to confirm the details.
BP said in a statement that the site was “attacked and occupied by a group of unidentified armed people.”
The company also said that Algerian authorities were “engaged with the incident,” and BP had activated its emergency response system.
The al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb group claimed it had captured the workers in retaliation for France’s intervention in Mali, Reuters reported, citing two Mauritania-based news agencies.
The kidnappers’ motives are unknown at the moment.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spoken to the U.S. Ambassador in Algeria and has also spoken with Algerian Prime Minister Sellal to discuss the crisis.
The Embassy issued an emergency message to American citizens in Algeria in the context of this incident.
This story is developing.