Algeria's state news service says nearly 100 out of the 132 foreign hostages kidnapped by Islamist militants have been freed from a gas plant in the Sahara desert.
The report by APS indicated a potential breakthrough in a bloody siege that began when militants seized the plant early Wednesday and reflected a significant jump in the number of foreign hostages involved.
The Friday report from the government news agency, citing a security official, did not mention any casualties in the battles between Algerian forces and the militants. But earlier it had said that 18 militants had been killed.
It was not clear whether the remaining foreigners were still captive or had been killed in the Algerian military operation to free them that began Thursday.
Nations with hostages in Algeria are reacting with muted anger to the decision by the North African country to launch a military rescue mission without consulting the other governments.
The United States, Britain and other countries say they weren't told in advance of the raid.
Privately, diplomats are furious -- but experts say their reaction is being tempered by the fact that Algeria is an anti-terrorist ally and a major oil and gas producer.
ALGIERS, Algeria - - Algeria's state news service says about 60 foreign hostages are unaccounted for in the standoff with Islamist militants now entering its third day.
The news service said more than half the 132 foreign hostages had been freed, but the report could not account for the rest. The report Friday also said special forces had resumed negotiations after an assault Thursday at the gas plant deep in the Sahara.
A Mauritanian news site that frequently receives messages from al-Qaida linked militants said the hostage-takers in Algeria had offered to trade two captive Americans for two jailed terror figures in the United States.
One of the two, Omar Abdel Rahman, masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
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