4 hostages have been freed, and some 20 hostages being held at the Amenas plant in Algeria have managed to escape from captivity, reports by various media suggest.
The four were freed by a group that managed to infiltrate the plant have been sent to hospital.
Whilst no official confirmation has yet been received about exact numbers who have escaped, some are believed to be Americans. Algerian army soldiers have completely surrounded the facility.
At the same time Islamic militants, who on Tuesday overran the living quarters at the Statoil facility, have requested around 20 sports utility vehicles, “sufficient fuel”, and safe passage out of the area, according to Al Jazeera.
Based on information from a French contractor who escaped the plant, several of the hostages are injured, and their captors have fitted some of them with explosive belts.
Algerian media say all communications network equipment around the facility is now switched off to prevent operation of any remote-controlled explosive devices.
“One day after the attack at In Amenas, we are still faced with an unresolved and very serious situation. There is a hostage situation at the facility," said Statoil CEO Helge Lund at today’s press conference.
Latest figures from the company confirm five are in safety, 12 are still involved in the on-going hostage situation, but Statoil “cannot provide confirmed information about how many people are involved in the action overall,” however.
Two people were killed in Tuesday night’s attack, one of them British and one Algerian. It is now known that at least 20 western contractors are being held at the gas field.
According the Algerian interior minister Daho Ould Kablia, around 20 militant Islamists were involved in the assault which is now believed to be in retaliation for French military intervention in Mali.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg confirmed at Wednesday evening’s press conference that Norwegians were amongst those who had been taken hostage at the plant in Algeria.
“I can confirm that 13 Norwegians are involved, said Stoltenberg. “Two of the 17 employees at the Statoil plant have come to harm.”
Nevertheless, he could not give details of how many Norwegian employees were being held as hostages.
Stoltenberg added that a Norwegian emergency team is being sent to the area.
“We were informed this morning, and since then have been working to secure the hostages and take care of their loved ones. This is now in full swing. We have also sent an emergency team to aid the embassy in Algeria. At the moment we can’t talk about other measures we have set in train,” he told reporters.
The British Foreign Office has confirmed that several British nationals were caught up in the attack on a gas field, jointly owned by BP and Statoil.
Nationals from Japan and Ireland are also known to be amongst the hostages. The kidnappers themselves claim they are holding 41 people.
Statoil CEO Helge Lund says, “all of our efforts are focused on bringing our employees home safe, as well as providing the support and assistance we can to their families and friends, colleagues and other employees in Statoil's organisation.”
“We have mobilised every available resource we have and need from the organisation. At the same time, we are cooperating both with Norwegian and international authorities, as well as other companies affected by the incident,” states Mr Lund.
Statoil has just under 20 employees at the Amenas plant, over 10 of these are Norwegian.
One hostage at the plant, a 52-year-old Frenchman, says their captors are treating them well.