PARIS Jan 17 Islamist militants holding dozens
of Western hostages at a gas plant in Algeria have forced some
to wear belts strapped with explosives, French television said
on Thursday, quoting one of the hostages.
France 24 said the man also told the channel during a
telephone call late on Wednesday that the hostage-takers were
heavily armed and had threatened to blow up the natural gas
facility if the Algerian army tried to free the hostages.
"They attacked the two sites at the same time. They went
inside and once it was daylight they gathered everybody
together," the man, who sounded calm, said in the only part of
the phone call that France 24 aired.
Gunmen stormed the gas pumping site and workers' housing
before dawn on Wednesday and a group calling itself the
"Battalion of Blood" has claimed it is holding 41 foreigners
including Americans, Japanese and Europeans at Tigantourine,
deep in the Sahara.
The French government has not confirmed whether there are
French nationals among the hostages.
Europe 1 radio said that according to its sources four
French nationals could be among the hostages.
France 24 said it had no way of verifying whether the man it
spoke to, an employee at the site who declined to be named, was
speaking under duress.