A military operation to free hostages held by Islamic militants at a natural gas production facility in eastern Algeria is over, the APS state news agency reported on Friday citing local authorities, RiaNovosti informs.

Algerian Communications Minister Mohamed Said Belaid said Thursday that a few hostages died or were wounded during the operation. According to Algerian state TV, four foreigners were killed.

Algerian troops stormed the facility near the eastern Algerian desert town of In Amenas earlier on Thursday after the Algerian authorities refused to negotiate with kidnappers, who seized dozens of hostages, including at least 40 foreign nationals, on Wednesday.

The terrorists from the group that calls itself the Masked Brigade and is linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have demanded the release of Islamists from Algerian prisons and an end to French military action in neighboring Mali.

Some 30 Algerians and 15 foreigners were reported to have escaped from the gas facility before the Algerian military surrounded and raided the site.

The hostage crisis comes as the French military carries out an assault in central Mali against radical Islamists who, along with a secular Tuareg rebellion, have since last March plunged the North African country back into violent turmoil.

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