An Algerian air strike killed 34 hostages, some of them Westerners, and 15 of their Islamist kidnappers at a desert gas field on Thursday, the ANI news agency quoted a spokesman for the kidnappers as saying.
“Thirty-four hostages and 15 kidnappers were killed in an (air) raid by the Algerian army,” the spokesman said in remarks that have not been independently confirmed.
The source said Westerners were among the dead, but did not elaborate.
Also killed was Abu al-Baraa, who led the Wednesday operation in which 41 foreigners and scores of Algerians were seized.
The spokesman said Algerian aircraft attacked the kidnappers when they tried to “transport some of the hostages in vehicles to a location to the south.”
While there was no confirmation, both the British and French governments said on Thursday afternoon that an operation was underway at the In Amenas gas plant.
Earlier, ANI had quoted a member of the group that seized the hostages in a deadly Wednesday raid on In Amenas as saying Algerian helicopter gunships had opened fire on the complex.
ANI, and Mauritanian online news agency Sahara Media, quoted a spokesman for the kidnappers as saying 41 foreigners, including seven Americans, had been taken hostage.
On Thursday, 15 foreigner and 30 Algerian hostages managed to escape, Algerian media reported, citing officials.