Top story: Efforts to free hostages taken at the In Amenas gas installation in Algeria are apparently ongoing, according to the British government, amid conflicting of the number of casualties and the number of hostages still at risk. Algerian state radio is reporting that 18 militants were killed in a military raid yesterday, which was apparently launched without the consultation of the governments whose citizens are also being held at the facility, and resulted in the deaths of some of the hostages.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said that "less than 30" British citizens were still at risk at the facility. The Japanese government said that three of its citizens escaped but 14 are still unaccounted for. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that "somewhere in the vicinity" of 7 or 8 Americans were taken hostage. He also said that about 100 people total were at the facility when it was attacked, which contradicts Algerian reports that 600 Algerian workers were freed in Thursday's raid.
There are also reports that a U.S. aircraft has landed nearby to evacuate U.S. citizens and that an American predator drone is monitoring the site.
A spokesman for the group behind the attack, called Al Mulathameen, warned of more attacks to come, saying Algerians should “keep away from the installations of foreign companies, because we will suddenly attack where no one would expect it.” The attack on In Amenas was in retaliation for the French intervention to combat Islamist militants in Mali.
Authorities believe that the veteran Algerian Jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar -- one of the senior leaders of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb until he broke with the group last year -- is the mastermind of this latest attack.
Mali: The Malian government dispatched troops to keep the town of Banamba out of rebel hands. Meanwhile, West African troops arrived in the country for the first time to support French and local forces. About 100 Togolese troops have already arrived and more are expected from Nigeria, Niger, and Chad.
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