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Islamists seize Japanese, French nationals in Algeria-sources

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 16 Jan 2013 11:21 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Adds details, BP comment)

ALGIERS, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Islamist militants seized five Japanese nationals and a French citizen from an oil facility in southern Algeria on Wednesday, local and diplomatic sources said.

The foreigners were taken from the facility at In Amenas in the morning. Algerian troops had mounted an operation to rescue the hostages, a local source told Reuters.

TV Ennahar reported that a security agent had been killed but it did not give his nationality.

Oil major BP confirmed there had been a "security incident" at its In Amenas gas field but could give no more details.

BP said British authorities had been advised about the incident. It did not say whether foreigners were taken away from the facility only that the company was "setting up a helpline for relatives".

The five Japanese work for the engineering firm JGC Corporation, a diplomatic source said. JGC has a deal with Sonatrach-BP-Statoil Association for work in gas production at In Amenas.

In Tokyo, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said it was gathering information on the situation but could not comment.

French Foreign Ministry officials also said they had no immediate comment and were trying to verify the reports.

Algeria has allowed France to use its air space during its military intervention against Islamist rebels in Mali, although officials have yet to make a link between Wednesday's attack and the conflict in Algeria's southern neighbour.

(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi in Algiers, additional reporting by Catherine Bremer in Paris; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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