Category: Politics / January 17, 2013 11:22 AM EST
The U.S. State Department condemned the attack on the In Amenas gas field in Algeria by Islamist militants on Wednesday (January 16), confirming that Americans were taken hostage during the attack.
State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the U.S. was in contact with Algerian authorities.
"We condemn in strongest terms the terrorist attack on British Petroleum personnel and facilities at the In Amenas, Algeria earlier today. We are obviously closely monitoring the situation. we are in contact with Algerian authorities and our diplomatic counterparts in Algiers as well as with BP's security office in London," Nuland told members of the media at a news briefing.
Nuland also cautioned that she would not release any further information regarding the hostages for security reasons.
"The best information that we have at this time is that U.S. citizens are among the hostages. I hope you will understand that in order to protect their safety I am not going to get into numbers, I am not going to get into names, I am not going to get into any further details as we continue to work on this issue with the Algerian authorities and also with their employers," Nuland said.
An Al-Qaeda linked group, dubbed the "Blood Battalion," has claimed to local media outlets to hold as many as 41 foreigners, including seven Americans, hostage. The group said that the attack came in response to France's military intervention in Mali.
The Blood Battalion is commanded by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a former commander of Al-Qaeda fighters in the Sahara before setting up his own Islamist group last year.
The In Amenas gas field is operated by a joint venture including BP, Norwegian oil firm Statoil and Algerian state company Sonatrach. BP has said armed men are still occupying facilities at the gas field, which produces more than a tenth of Algeria's total gas output.