Algiers — Islamist militants who seized Westerners at an Algerian gas plant are demanding a safe passage to nearby Libya, authorities said, as fallout from the French offensive in Mali reverberates globally.
"The authorities do not negotiate, no negotiations," Algerian interior minister, Diho Weld Qabliyeh, said on state television after confirming the demands Wednesday night. "We have received their demands, but we didn't respond to them."
Media in the region reported that the attackers issued a news release demanding an end to "brutal aggression on our people in Mali" and cited "blatant intervention of the French crusader forces in Mali."
Algerian news reports said that 30 Algerian hostages and 15 of the foreigners had been able to escape, but there was no immediate independent confirmation of that account. The BP gas field is 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of the Libyan border and 1,300 kilometers from the Algerian capital, Algiers.
A French television station, France 24, quoted an unidentified hostage as saying the attackers "were heavily armed and forced several hostages to wear explosives belts. They threatened to blow up the gas field if Algerian forces attempted to enter the site," the station reported.