Not clear how many Britons held in Algeria: Foreign secretary

London, Jan 17 (IANS) British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was unclear how many Britons were being held captive after armed Islamists attacked a gas field in Algeria and killed a British worker.

Hague warned the hostage crisis in Algeria was "dangerous and rapidly developing", the Telegraph reported.

The foreign secretary denounced the "cold-blooded murder" of a Briton at the gas field but said the crisis does not appear to be linked to the French intervention in Mali.

Armed Islamists are holding dozens of hostages, including at least seven Americans, and workers from France, Britain, Norway and Japan.

Two Britons were reported to have been wounded in the attack along with a Norwegian and three Algerians.

Hague described the Islamists' justification as "a convenient excuse" but said the operation was likely to have been planned before French forces were deployed in Mali.

"Whatever excuse is being used by terrorists and murderers, there is no excuse. This is the cold-blooded murder of people going about their business," Hague was quoted as saying.

"While sadly I can confirm the death of one British national, I can't confirm at this point the exact number of hostages held," he said.

Hague vowed to "work around the clock to resolve this crisis".

Statoil, the Norwegian oil group sharing the plant with BP, has 12 employees involved in the situation.

The British foreign office has sent a rapid deployment team of addition diplomats to Algeria.

Washington and Tokyo have said their nationals were among the hostage, but French President Francois Hollande said he was not certain that French citizens were being held.

French news channel France 24 said Malaysian and Filipino nationals were also among the hostages.

Algerian Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia, speaking on national television, insisted Algiers would not negotiate with the "terrorists", who he said were surrounded by the army and security services.


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