Al Qaeda-Linked Algerian Militants Demand US Free 2 Terrorists
An undated handout photo provided by Norwegian oil company Statoil 16 January 2013 show the gas facility in In Amenas, Algeria. EPA/BGNES
The al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group that took over a natural gas facility in Algeria is offering to free American hostages in exchange for two convicted terrorists being held in U.S. jails.
The militants say they want the release of Egyptian Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and Pakistani Aafia Siddiqui and plan to release a video outlining the offer, according to the news agency, which often reports news from North African extremists, Mauritania's ANI news agency reported Friday as cited by USA Today.
The 74-year-old Abdel-Rahman, also known as the "Blind Sheikh," is serving a life sentence in North Carolina as the mastermind of the1993 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.
Siddiqui, a 40-year-old scientist, was sentenced in 2010 to 86 years in U.S. prison for assault with intent to murder for shooting at two U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan during her detention in 2008.
About 60 foreign workers taken hostage by Islamists remain missing Friday following a raid by Algerian forces that freed hundreds of Algerians, according to the Algeria military.
The state Algeria Press Service says the military freed 573 Algerians and nearly 100 of the 132 non-Algerians in Thursday's raid at the natural gas facility in the remote desert.
It remains unclear how many foreign workers died in the raid or of what nationality, and how many escaped the In Amenas facility.
The Algerian special forces who carried out the raid killed up to 20 hostage-takers, members of an Islamic group known as Qatiba, which translates as Signers in Blood. The forces have surrounded a portion of the facility where more terrorists and some hostages remain, provincial administration sources told APS.
The military is still trying to reach a "peaceful settlement" before "neutralizing" the terrorist group, security sources told APS.
Workers at the facility include citizens of Britain, Ireland, Japan, Netehrlands and the United States British Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday during an address to members of parliament that efforts to free the hostages without violence are continuing.
The exact fate, and number, of hostages kidnapped by Islamic militants remains unclear.
A U.S. official said late Thursday that while some Americans escaped, other Americans remained either held or unaccounted for, the Associated Press reported. The official spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
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