30 Hostages Killed
He told Reuters that among the dead hostages were eight Algerians, two Japanese, two Britons and one French national. The nationalities of the other dead were not clear.
According To TVNZ...An Algerian security source said at least 11 Islamist militants including their leader were killed when Algerian forces stormed the gas plant, He said two Algerians, including the group's leader Tahar Ben Cheneb, a prominent commander in the region, were among the dead, along with three Egyptians, two Tunisians, two Libyans, a Malian and a French citizen.
It was not clear whether further bodies of militants might be found now the operation is over.
The standoff began when gunmen calling themselves the Battalion of Blood stormed the gas facility on Wednesday morning.
They said they were holding 41 foreigners and demanded a halt to a French military operation against fellow al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants in neighbouring Mali.
As many as 600 Algerian workers at the site managed to flee, the official Algerian news agency said.
Raising the stakes
The incident dramatically raises the stakes in the French military campaign in neighbouring Mali, where hundreds of French paratroopers and marines are launching a ground offensive against rebels after air strikes began last week.
Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia said the kidnappers 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 Qaeda leaders.
A holy warrior-cum-smuggler dubbed "The Uncatchable" by French intelligence and "Mister Marlboro" by some locals for his illicit cigarette-running business, Belmokhtar's links to those who seized towns across northern Mali last year are unclear.
The hostage takers earlier allowed some prisoners to speak to the media, apparently to put pressure on Algerian forces not to storm the compound. An unidentified hostage who spoke to France 24 television said prisoners were forced to wear explosive belts and captors had threatened to blow up the plant.
A local source told Reuters the hostage takers had blown up a petrol filling station at the plant.
The precise number and nationalities of foreign hostages could not be confirmed, with some countries reluctant to release information that could be useful to the captors.
Britain said one of its citizens was killed in the initial storming on Wednesday and "a number" of others were held.
The militants said seven Americans were among their hostages, a figure US officials said they could not confirm.
Norwegian oil company Statoil said nine of its Norwegian staff and three Algerian employees were captive. Britain's BP, which operates the plant with Statoil and Algerian state oil company Sonatrach, said some of its staff were held but would not say how many or their nationalities.
Japanese media said five workers from Japanese engineering firm JGC Corp. were held, a number the company did not confirm. Paris has not said whether any hostages were French. Vienna said one hostage was Austrian, Dublin said one was Irish and Bucharest said an unspecified number were Romanian.
Spanish oil company Cepsa said it had begun to evacuate personnel from elsewhere in Algeria, an OPEC member.
Paris said the Algeria attack demonstrated it was right to intervene in Mali: "We have the flagrant proof that this problem goes beyond just the north of Mali," French ambassador to Mali Christian Rouyer told France Inter radio.
President Francois Hollande has received public backing from Western and African allies who fear that al Qaeda, flush with men and arms from the defeated forces of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, is building a desert haven in Mali, a poor country helpless to combat fighters who seized its north last year.
However, there is also some concern in Washington and other capitals that the French action in Mali could provoke a backlash worse than the initial threat by militants in the remote Sahara.
The militants, communicating through established contacts with media in neighbouring Mauritania, said they had dozens of men armed with mortars and anti-aircraft missiles in the compound and had rigged it with explosives.
The attack in Algeria did not stop France from pressing on with its campaign in Mali. It said today it now had 1,400 troops on the ground in Mali, and combat was underway against the rebels that it first began targeting from the air last week.
Residents said a column of about 30 French Sagaie armoured vehicles set off on Wednesday toward rebel positions from the town of Niono, 300 km from the capital, Bamako.
The French action last week came as a surprise but received widespread international support in public. Neighbouring African countries planning to provide ground troops for a UN force by September have said they will move faster to deploy them.
Nigeria, the strongest regional power, sent 162 soldiers on Thursday, the first of an anticipated 906.
Germany, Britain and the Netherlands have offered transport aircraft to help ferry in African troops. Washington has said it is considering what support it can offer.
Many inhabitants of northern Mali have welcomed the French action, though some also fear being caught in the cross-fire. The Mali rebels who seized Timbuktu and other oasis towns in northern Mali last year imposed Islamic law, including public amputations and beheadings that angered many locals.
A day after launching the campaign in Mali, Hollande also ordered a failed rescue in Somalia on Saturday to free a French hostage held by al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants since 2009. Al Shabaab said on Thursday it had executed hostage Denis Allex. France said it believed he died in the rescue.