A wet gas field in eastern central Algeria jointly operated by BP, Statoil and state oil company, Sonatrach, has been attacked by assailants who have reportedly killed two foreign workers and kidnapped 20 others.
The attack which claimed the lives of a UK and Algerian, happened in the early hours of Wednesday morning at a camp for workers at the In Amenas field which lies 1,300 km south-east of the capital Algiers.
A terrorist group, heavily armed, arrived on three vehicles, entered Wednesday at 5 a.m. (Algerian time), Sonatrachs base for workers in Tigantourine, near In Amenas, about hundred kilometres from the Algerian-Libyan borders, read a statement by the Algerian interior ministry.
It added: The attack targeted first a bus which was leaving this base transporting foreigners to In Amenas airport.
This initial attack where a foreigner was killed was foiled by a security detail for the workers. Two foreigners and four members of the security force were injured in the attack, whilst the remaining passengers proceeded to the airport and treated by local authorities, according to the Algeria Press Service (APS).
The worker camp was the attackers next target where they are currently holding hostage some 20 people who are thought to be British, Japanese, US, French and Norwegian nationals. The site is now surrounded by Algerian security forces.
Algerias Interior minister, Daho Ould Kabila stressed that there would be no negotiations with the attackers who are widely thought to be followers of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a senior Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) commander.
The alleged groups behind the raid have said that they have released all their Algerian hostages and are now holding only foreigners. The facility is said to be booby-trapped by the captors who are demanding food, water and vehicles in an attempt to escape the country.
According to minister Kabila, the nearby border crossings with Libya have been closed as a precaution.
BP, which has a 46 per cent working interest in the In Amenas field said in a statement that: Contact with the site is extremely difficult, but we understand that armed individuals are still occupying the In Amenas operations site.
Our absolute priority is the safety and security of our staff. The site is normally manned by staff and contractors from the joint venture. We do not yet have confirmed information on the status of personnel at the site but believe some are being held by the occupiers, the statement added.
"The hostage situation at In Amenas is one of the most serious incidents we have had in Statoil," said Statoils executive vice president for Development and Production International, Lars Christian Bacher, adding that the situation is unclear, complicated and very demanding.
Bacher said that: Seventeen Statoil employees were in or around the facility Wednesday morning. Thirteen of these are Norwegian. We have received information that five of the 17 are brought to safety in a military camp in the area.
Four of the five are Norwegians, and one is a Canadian resident, according to Statoil. Two people are reported injured and have received medical treatment.