Freelance journalist (BBC, RFI, magazines), writer (first book on Massive Attack and Bristol), I work with Raoul Peck on his film projects. Born in Paris, I have been based in Prague, Miami, London, Nairobi (covering Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia) and Bristol, UK. Travelled to Italy, Haiti, Tunisia, Liberia, South Africa, India, Mexico, Niger, Turkey, Iraq... Passions: Africa, Europe, literature, music, arts. This blog is to share thoughts and cultural discoveries from around the world.
There has been a flood of confusing, unverifiable and largely unconfirmed information on the fast-moving events throughout the day at the In Amenas gas installation in the Algerian desert where Islamist militants early on Wednesday took a large number of hostages, including 41 westerners, killing two people.
Here is a roundup:
• The British and French foreign ministries and the Algerian government have confirmed an Algerian army attack on the complex is under way.
• Reuters reports that six foreign hostages were killed and 25 escaped when Algerian forces launched an operation to free them. Eight of the hostage-takers were also killed when the Algerian military fired on a vehicle being used by the gunmen, the agency says.
• The state Algerian news agency APS says four foreign hostages and 600 Algerian hostages have been freed by the Algerian army.It identified the foreigners as one French man, two Scots and a Kenyan. Reuters cited a local source as saying 180 Algerian workers had escaped.
• Mauritania's ANI news agency, which claims to have been in constant contact with the kidnappers, says seven hostages are still being held: two Americans, three Belgians, one Japanese and one British citizen.
• ANI earlier reported that as many as 35 hostages and 15 militants were killed in the assault, but these figures cannot be confirmed and a British government source described them as "high".
• The standoff started when militants calling themselves the Battalion of Blood stormed the plant early on Wednesday morning. They demanded a halt to a French military operation against fellow al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants in neighbouring Mali.
• Algeria's interior minister, Daho Ould Kablia, said the hostage-takers were led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a veteran Islamist guerrilla who fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s and had set up his own group in the Sahara after falling out with other local al-Qaida leaders.