Two Americans escaped unharmed Thursday from a hostage standoff with an Al Qaeda-linked group as Algeria's state news agency reports special forces have completed a rescue operation to free the remaining foreign hostages, but casualties have been reported.
Algerian state television said that four captives, two Britons and two Filipinos have died. But the militants said at least 35 hostages had died in the state's rescue attempt. There was no way to independently verify the toll in the remote location, 800 miles from Algiers.
The two Americans who managed to escape the Ain Amenas gas plant where they were being held are en route to London.
A senior U.S. official tells Fox News that at least one unarmed U.S. drone is patrolling the Ain Amenas gas plant to provide intelligence on the situation. At least 20 gunmen attacked and took over the vast complex early Wednesday, reportedly in retaliation for France's military intervention against Al Qaeda-linked rebels in neighboring Mali, though Fox News sources say the attack may have been planned much earlier.
The reports of high casualties have deeply disturbed foreign governments, prompting a number to criticize Algeria's operation. Britain's Foreign Office attempted to prepare the British public by saying, "We should be under no illusion that there will be some bad and distressing news to follow from this terrorist attack."
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