Jan 16 - Islamist militants stormed a gas field in Algeria and claim to have taken more than 40 workers hostage --- in retaliation for French military action in Mali. Deborah Gembara reports
Heavily armed gunmen stormed a gas field in Algeria and claimed to take a group of 41 international workers hostage. In Norway, Christian Bacher, executive vice president for Statoil. SOUNDBITEL Christian Bacher, executive vice president for Statoil saying (Norwegian "The intruders took control over the area after a relatively short time. This is big gas facility in the desert near the Libyan border and is jointly operated by Sonatrach, which is the Algerian state oil company, BP and Statoil," This man Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Islamist militant affiliated with al Qaeda is believed to have led the raid. Three people were reportedly killed. The kidnapped include Japanese, British, Norweigian and French nationals as well as seven Americans. The reaction from Washington. SOUNDBITE: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKEWOMAN SAYING: "We condemn in strongest terms the algerian attack, closely monitoring the situation. The best info we have is that US citizens are among the hostages, not going to get into names, etc. The group responsible for the raid say it is in response to France's miliary involvement against Islamist militants in Mali. In Paris, President Francois Hollande. SOUNDBITE: French President Francois Hollande saying (French): "I am in constant contact with the Algerian authorities who are doing and will do what is needed. We are also in contact with heads of state and government of the countries concerned. All this is not without a connection -- as everyone will have understood -- to the operation that we are undertaking, France, but also the African countries and all those who are participating in what we call the 'MISMA' (International Mission to Support Mali), whose aim is for Mali to regain its territorial integrity as soon as possible." The attack in southern Algeria is raising fears that French military action in Mali could prompt further Islamist revenge attacks on Western targets.