Algerian assault ends crisis, 19 hostages dead

AIN AMENAS, Algeria - Algerian special forces stormed a natural gas complex in the middle of the Sahara desert on Saturday in a "final assault" that ended a four-day-old hostage crisis, according to the state news agency and two foreign governments. At least 19 hostages and 29 Islamist militants have been killed.

The report, quoting a security source, didn't say whether any hostages or militants remained alive, and it didn't give the nationalities of the dead.

It said the army was forced to intervene after a fire broke out in the plant and said the militants killed the hostages. It wasn't immediately possible to verify who killed the captives.

Seven hostages and 11 militants were killed in Saturday's operation, adding to the previous tally of 12 captives and 18 kidnappers.

The Ain Amenas plant is jointly run by BP, Norway's Statoil and Algeria's state-owned oil company. The governments of Norway and Britain said they received confirmation the siege was over.

The entire refinery was mined with explosives and set to blow up, the Algerian state oil company Sonatrach said in a statement, adding that the process of clearing the explosives had begun. The Algerian media reported that the militants had planned to blow up the complex.

The siege transfixed the world after radical Islamists linked to al-Qaida stormed the complex, which contained hundreds of plant workers from all over the world.

AP