A number of Americans have been seized by militants at a gas field in Algeria, U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday, in what he described as a terrorist incident.
The militant group that claimed responsibility said it was in revenge for Algeria's support of France's operation against al-Qaida-linked Malian rebels groups far to the southeast. It said it was holding 41 foreigners, including seven Americans.
Both Panetta and the State Department have confirmed that Americans were among the 41 hostages reportedly at the gas field, a joint venture including oil giant BP, Norwegian oil firm Statoil and Algerian state company Sonatrach. "Beyond confirming that there are Americans among the hostages, I will ask you to respect our decision not to get into any further details as we try to secure these people," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news briefing.
Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, told CNBC, "We believe from reports that I've gotten that this is by al-Qaida in the (Islamic) Mahgreb in retaliation for the French military actions in partnership with the Malian military over recent days to try and stabilize the security situation and fight back against the Islamic extremists that have taken control of all of northern Mali."