In Amenas installation (undated photo)
In Amenas installation (undated photo)Reuters

Al Qaeda-linked terrorists are holding Americans and other foreign nationals hostage after seizing a gas field in the southern Algerian town of In Amenas.

Three people were killed in the attack. 

Seven U.S. nationals are among the hostages, a terrorist said in a phone call to a news outlet, but the claim could not be verified. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement, “The best information that we have at this time is that U.S. citizens are among the hostages,” The New York Times reported.

In addition, France, Ireland, Japan, Britain and Norway have said their citizens are also being held.

Oil giant BP confirmed in a statement that its installation, jointly operated with Algerian and Norwegian oil firms, was “attacked and occupied by a group of unidentified armed people.” The company added that some of its personnel were believed to be “held by the occupiers.”

A total of 41 people from approximately 10 different countries were taken, a terrorist told the AFP news agency by telephone.

The group, an offshoot of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), operates in Northern Africa. “We are members of Al Qaeda and came from northern Mali,” the operative said. He added that his cell belonged to the Khaled Aboul Abbas Brigade, led by former AQIM leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar.

The group, formed to attack those involved in the military operation against radical Islamist jihadists in Mali, is demanding an end to the offensive.

Algeria has opened its airspace to allow French fighter jets to assist Mali’s government in its war against the rebel jihadists. The terrorists who claimed credit for the attack specifically noted Algeria’s involvement in allowing French fighter jets into its airspace, ABC News reported.

“Algeria will not respond to terrorist demands and rejects all negotiations,” Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia said in a statement on local television Wednesday.