Islamic militants have told a Mauritanian news outlet that that 35 hostages were killed but seven are still alive after Algerian military helicopters strafed a gas complex deep in the Sahara.
The spokesman for the Masked Brigade, which claimed responsibility for the attack Wednesday on the Algerian gas plant, said Thursday the survivors included three Belgians, two Americans, a Briton and a Japanese citizen.
The information came from the Nouakchott Information Agency, which often carries reports from al-Qaida-linked extremist groups.
The militant spokesman said the kidnappers were attacked by Algerian helicopters as they tried to leave the complex.
Algeria's news agency, citing local police, said four foreign hostages were freed in the operation.
The Algerian government would not immediately comment and the Associated Press could not confirm the information independently.
Algerian security officials: Hostages, including Americans, have escaped
An Algerian security official says at least 20 foreigners have escaped from the natural gas plant deep in the Sahara desert where Islamist militants are holding dozens of hostages.
The official said those escaping included Americans and Europeans. He did not give any further details.
Militants attacked the Ain Amenas gas complex 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) south of Algiers on Wednesday, taking dozens of foreign workers hostage. Those being held included Japanese, Britons, French, Americans, Malaysians and Norwegians, among others.
The gas plant has been surrounded by the Algerian army and there's now a tense standoff with the militants.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
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