Much confusion surrounds an apparent attempt by the Algerian armed forces to storm the gas complex where many Western workers had been taken hostage by Islamist fighters.
Throughout Thursday afternoon there has been very little verifiable information.
There are unconfirmed reports of an explosion at the facility. Earlier reports spoke of fatalities among foreigners being held and their Islamist captors. Militants said they were still holding some workers.
Some reports said hostages had escaped, others said some had been freed.
An Irish hostage is known to be free and has spoken to his family. News of Stephen McFaul’s release was announced by the Irish foreign minister.
Earlier an official Algerian news agency said four foreign hostages had been freed.
A US surveillance drone is reported to be positioned over the facility.
BP has said it is moving non-essential workers out of the country as a precaution.
This major international hostage crisis was threatening to develop into a tense stand-off between kidnappers and the Algerian authorities.
Then came first reports this afternoon that the Algerian army had attacked from the air using helicopters. The Algerian government reportedly says it had to act immediately.
The British government has said it would have preferred to have been told in advance of the operation.
Once the dust has settled there are bound to be many questions and much controversy.