Algiers — Islamist militants from Mali attacked a gas production field in southern Algeria on Wednesday, kidnapping at least nine foreigners, including English, Norwegian and Japanese nationals, and killing two people including a French national during a dawn raid, local and company officials said.
The British Foreign Office confirmed "a terrorist incident" near the facility in Ain Amenas, 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the Libyan border and 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) from the capital in Algeria's vast desert south but could not confirm if any British nationals were involved in the incident.
The raid, claimed by an al Qaeda affiliate, came after Islamists had vowed to retaliate for France's military intervention in Mali, where its forces have been in action against al Qaeda-linked militants since last week.
The attack also raised fears that the French action could prompt further Islamist revenge attacks on Western targets in Africa, where al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb operates across borders in the Sahara desert and in Europe.
The Algerian interior ministry said: "A terrorist group, heavily armed and using three vehicles, launched an attack this Wednesday at 5 am against a Sonatrach base in Tigantourine, near In Amenas, about 100 km (60 miles) from the Algerian and Libyan border."
Algerian forces, however, caught up with and surrounded the kidnappers and negotiations for the release of the hostages are ongoing, the official said.