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Seven hostages 'killed' as army storms Algeria gas plant

Seven hostages were killed by militants during a 'final' army assault at the In Amenas gas plant, according to Algeria's state news agency. Troops also killed 11 Islamists during day-four of the standoff, it said.

The Algerian Press Service (APS) said seven hostages and 11 of their kidnappers were killed during a special forces' raid at the natural gas extraction complex in Algeria's southeastern desert.

The French news agency AFP also quoted an Algerian security sources as saying that "the assault took place mid-morning. Eleven terrorists lost their lives along with foreign hostages. We think they were killed in retaliation."

Four day crisis

The militants had seized the In Amenas compound - operated by British Petroleum, Norway's Statoil and the Algeria's Sonatrach, among others - along with dozens of foreigners and hundreds of Algerians inside it early on Wednesday.

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Algerian hostage drama 'over'

The captors said their attack was in response to the French military offensive in neighboring Mali and permission given by Algeria for French aircraft to use its airspace.

The drama ranked as one of the biggest international hostage crises in decades and thrust Saharan militancy to the top of the global agenda.

Verification difficult

The exact number of those involved – hostages alive or dead as well as militant fighters – has yet to be confirmed, with the Algerian government keeping officials from Western countries far from away from the gas plant.

Earlier reports had put the number of hostages killed at between 12 and 30, with possibly dozens of foreigners, from countries including Norway, Japan, Great Britain and the US, still unaccounted for.

Hundreds escaped Thursday when the Algerian army launched a rescue operation. Survivors said a number of hostages were also killed in that intervention.

UN condemns hostage-taking

The UN Security Council condemned the raid and hostage-taking at the gas complex by Islamist militants. Its statement - released late on Friday - stressed that the al Qaeda-linked attackers and their backers should be brought to justice.

The Council expressed "condolences to the victims of these heinous acts and their families and to the people and governments of Algeria and those countries whose nationals have been affected."

The statement also added a phrase that said that countries must ensure that "measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law."

dr,mkg/ipj (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)

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