At 4.30am local time, armed men infiltrated a facility located in the Ain Amenas gas field in south-eastern Algeria, close to the border with Libya, and took the workers hostage, according to the state run Algerian Press Service.
The attack began when three vehicles of armed men attempted to ambush a bus carrying employees from the site to a nearby airport. The attack was driven off, at which point the group headed towards the facility’s living quarters where the hostages were taken.
Algerian forces have now surrounded the site, which is jointly owned by BP (NYSE:BP), Statoil, and Sonatrach, the state run oil company.
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An Algerian security official has reported that 41 foreigners have been kidnaped by the gunmen, with a group known as the Katibat Moulathamine, or the Masked Brigade, claiming to a Mauritanian news company that it was responsible for the attack.
The Masked Brigade was established by Moktar Belmoktar, the long-time strongman of al-Qaeda in the Sahara region before he split off to form his own armed Islamist group.
The Masked Brigade have claimed that the attack is in response for Algeria allowing French jets to use its airspace whilst conducting attacks against al-Qaeda linked rebels in neighbouring Mali.
The French president Francois Hollande launched the aerial attacks in a surprise operation aimed at eliminating what he believes are Islamist extremists who pose a threat to the world.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com