Norwegian PM confirms 13 Norwegians taken hostage in Algeria

Updated: 2013-01-17 04:51


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OSLO - Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg confirmed on Wednesday night that 13 Norwegian nationals have been taken hostage in a terrorist attack on a gas field in eastern Algeria.

Stoltenberg said at an urgent press conference that he looked "very seriously" at the unfolding situation arisen out of the hostage episode.

"It's one of the most serious hostage situation Norwegian citizens have been involved in," said the prime minister.

He said that the important thing was to "get our people home safe and sound" and that there are few lives lost in the action.

Lars Christian Bacher, a spokesperson for Norwegian state oil firm Statoil, said that 13 employees of the company at the gas facility were kidnapped earlier in the day.

Two of the hostages suffered injuries in the drama. But according to the spokesman, their injuries were not serious.

When the attack occurred, a total of 17 workers were in the facility, including 13 Norwegians, three Algerians and one person from Canada. Four of them managed to escape to a nearby military camp, said Bacher in Stavanger, where Statoil is headquartered.

The attackers reportedly took control of the gas facility briefly.

A group known as Katibat Moulathamine (The masked brigade) telephoned a news channel in Mauritania, saying that 41 people from nine or 10 different countries were taken hostage, according to the Norwegian-language newspaper Aftenposten.

The group claimed the attack was a retaliatory act against Algeria's support for the ongoing French military action against Islamist rebels in Mali.