A Frenchman has reportedly been killed and at least nine other foreigners kidnapped by Islamist militants in Algeria.
The victims, who include five Japanese nationals, a Frenchman, an Irishman and a Norwegian, were seized following a raid on the Ain Amenas gas production facility in the south of the country. One report also spoke of an American being kidnapped.
Algerian troops are believed to have mounted an operation to rescue the hostages but the French and Japanese foreign ministries said they were trying to verify the reports.
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 gas field, located close to the border with Libya, is operated by a joint venture including BP, Norwegian oil firm Statoil and Algerian state company Sonatrach.