ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — The three-day hostage standoff at a natural gas plant in Algeria's Sahara Desert may have taken a dramatic turn. The state news service is reporting that nearly 100 of the 132 foreign workers kidnapped by Islamic militants had been freed.
But that still means that the fate of over 30 foreign energy workers is unknown.
Today's report from the government news agency didn't mention any casualties in the battles between Algerian forces and the militants. It earlier had said 18 militants were dead, along with six hostages.
It's not clear whether the remaining foreigners are still captive, or whether they died during the Algerian military offensive that began yesterday in an effort to free them.
The militants had said 35 hostages died in that operation.
There's also word today that the militants offered to trade two captive American workers for two terror figures being held in the United States.
According to a statement received by a news site in Mauritania, the two terror suspects include the man considered to be the spiritual leader of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
193-a-04-(Man identified only as Ian, a foreign worker from Scotland who'd been held hostage at the gas plant, in Algerian state televison interview after he was rescued)-"thoughts are with colleagues"-After his rescue from the gas complex, a worker from Scotland named Ian told Algerian state TV he was relieved for himself, very sad for others. (18 Jan 2013)
<<CUT *193 (01/18/13)>> 00:04 "thoughts are with colleagues"
180-w-32-(Sagar Meghani (SAH'-gur meh-GAH'-nee), AP national security correspondent, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta)--Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the U.S. continues working to free the American hostages held in Algeria. AP National Security Correspondent Sagar Meghani reports. (18 Jan 2013)
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APPHOTO LON816: Unidentified rescued hostages pose for the media in Ain Amenas, Algeria, in this image taken from television Friday Jan. 18, 2013. Algeria's state news service says nearly 100 out of 132 foreign hostages have been freed from a gas plant where Islamist militants had held them captive for three days. The APS news agency report was an unexpected indication of both more hostages than had previously been reported and a potentially breakthrough development in what has been a bloody siege. (AP Photo/Canal Algerie via Associated Press TV) (asterisk)(asterisk) TV OUT ALGERIA OUT (asterisk)(asterisk) (18 Jan 2013)
<<APPHOTO LON816 (01/18/13)>>