ALGIERS, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- The Algerian army troops on Thursday managed to take control over the gas-field compound of Tingatourine in the southernmost province of Illizi, after launching a raid to rescue the hostages held there by an armed group linked to al-Qaida, the local TSA news agency reported.
Knaoui Sidi, a religious leader in the region of Tingatourine, was quoted by a report on TSA's website as saying that the army forces decided to raid the compound after the kidnappers attempted to escape with the hostages.
Sidi said that "several hostages have been rescued," and "there have been several people reportedly being killed or injured, though there's no official toll of this raid."
He further specified that the captors rejected to negotiate with the elders of the region to free the hostages.
The TSA report came as the Nouakchott News Agency (ANI) of Mauritania said that seven Western hostages are still alive after the raid of the Algerian army.
Quoting a spokesman for the kidnappers, the ANI said three Belgians, two Americans, a Japanese and a British national survived the raid.
Earlier reports from Algeria's local Ennahar TV said that the leader of the armed group, nicknamed Abu al-Baraa, was killed during the raid. It added that the vehicles of the captors were destroyed by the army troops.
A spokesman of the kidnappers, known as the "Battalion of Blood, " warned that the fighters of the armed group "will kill the hostages if the Algerian army continues with its raids."
The absence of official comments on the latest development at the Algerian gas facility has made rumors circulating concerning the fate of the at least 41 foreigners who were held hostage by armed militants since Wednesday. As regional and local media claimed earlier that over 30 people were killed in the raid, they continued with reports of abductees being freed.
Meanwhile, some Western countries, including Britain and France, have on Thursday afternoon confirmed that they were informed about an ongoing operation by Algeria at the gas plant in Illizi.
The Tigantourine gas facility, which lies about 1,300 km south of Algiers and is located near the border with Libya, is the third largest in Algeria and jointly owned by BP, Statoil and the Algerian company Sonatrach.