\"Tanaiste

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore Photo by: Google Images

Irishman among 'dozens' of oil workers kidnapped by Al Qaeda in Algeria

\"Tanaiste

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore Photo by: Google Images

An Irishman is among those who were kidnapped while working in an oil field in Algeria in the early hours of Wednesday morning. A group connected to the terror cell Al Qaeda is reportedly claiming responsibility for the kidnapping.

In a statement, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said, "The Government stands ready to use all the resources available to us to ensure that our citizen is released as soon as possible.”

He also asked that the privacy surrounding the kidnapped man’s family would be respected.

The kidnapped man, whose name has not been released, was identified as travelling on an Irish passport and is understood to be a 36-year-old married man, from Northern Ireland.

The Irishman was among Japanese, Norwegian, French and possibly US nationals taken captive.

Reuters reports that an Al Qaeda affiliated group said the raid had been carried out because of Algeria's decision to allow France to use its airspace for attacks against Islamists in Mali, where French forces have been in action against al Qaeda-linked militants since last week.

The Algerian interior ministry said: "A terrorist group, heavily armed and using three vehicles, launched an attack this Wednesday at 5 a.m. against a Sonatrach base in Tigantourine, near In Amenas, about 100 km (60 miles) from the Algerian and Libyan border."

"The Algerian authorities will not respond to the demands of the terrorists and will not negotiate," Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia was quoted as saying by official news agency APS.

The hostage situation is still developing at the In Amenas gas field, which is a joint venture operated by BP, Norwegian oil firm Statoil, and Algerian state company Sonatrach.

BP said on Wednesday afternoon that armed men were still occupying facilities at the gas field, which produces 9 billion cubic meters of gas a year (160,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day), more than a tenth of the country's overall gas output, and 60,000 barrels a day of condensate.

BP added, "The site was attacked and occupied by a group of unidentified armed people at about 0500 UK time. Contact with the site is extremely difficult, but we understand that armed individuals are still occupying the In Amenas operations site.”

A spokesman for BP said it usually had fewer than 20 people working at the site but would not be drawn on whether they were any talks with the hostage takers. The spokesman added, "Obviously we are doing everything we can to make sure our people are okay."

"The operation was in response to the blatant interference by Algeria and the opening of its air space to French aircraft to bomb northern Mali," the Islamist spokesman told Mauritania's ANI news agency.

ANI reported that the Islamists said they were surrounded by Algerian forces and warned that any attempt to free the hostages would lead to a "tragic end". One of the hostage takers told ANI that the perimeter of the site had been mined.

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