Malian extremists kidnap 8 foreigners from Algerian gas plant

French leading fight against Malian extremists

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) - Islamist militants from Mali attacked a natural gas field partly operated by BP in southern Algeria early on Wednesday, killing a security guard and kidnapping at least eight people, including English, Norwegian and Japanese nationals, an Algerian security official and local media said.

Algerian forces, however, caught up with and surrounded the kidnappers and negotiations for the release of the hostages are ongoing, the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The Algerian state news agency said a security guard was killed in the attack and seven others wounded, including two foreigners.

The British Foreign Office confirmed "a terrorist incident is ongoing" near the facility in Ain Amenas, 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the Libyan border and 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) from the capital in Algeria's vast desert south. It could not confirm if any British nationals were involved in the incident.

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

Statoil, for its part, confirmed an attack had taken place, adding that it has 20 employees in the facility.

In a statement Wednesday, BP confirmed there had been a "security incident this morning" at their Ain Amenas gas field in east central Algeria.

Al-Qaida's North Africa branch has long been active in northern Algeria and occasionally in the desert south, but it has never before attacked the country's many oil and gas facilities.

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