An American hostage has been confirmed dead amid uncertainty over the fate of other foreigners held at an Algerian gas plant, with their captors demanding a prisoner swap and an end to French military action in Mali...
...The US State Department identified the dead US citizen as Frederick Buttaccio amid reports that a total of five Americans were initially taken hostage....
...International criticism of the haste with which Algeria launched a dramatic military assault to rescue those held has been mounting, after an Algerian security official said it had left dead 12 hostages and 18 kidnappers.
Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, said a Frenchman had been killed in the operation. A US official said an American military transport plane had begun to help evacuate survivors, but gave no estimate of the number of US hostages.
Troops were trying to reach a "peaceful" end to the hostage crisis, before "neutralising the terrorist group that is holed up in the plant and freeing a group of hostages still being held there", a security official said.
The al-Qaeda-linked gunmen group known as "Signatories in Blood" want an end to the French intervention in neighbouring Mali, according to Mauritania's ANI news agency.
The gunmen said they were still holding three Belgians, two Americans, one Japanese and a Briton, although Belgium said there was no indication that any of its nationals were being held.
Officials say at least 30 more people remain unaccounted for, and the fate of at least 10 Japanese nationals and six Norwegian hostages is still unknown.
From the Houston Chronicle:
A Katy man is dead, the fate of another area resident is unclear and an Austin man escaped following the attack by militants on a natural gas facility in Algeria, a Texas congressman said Friday.
U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, told reporters in Washington that Frederick Buttaccio, 58, of Katy, was confirmed dead. He cited a briefing he from the State Department.
The State Department later issued a statement confirming Buttaccio's death, but providing no further information.
McCaul said the fate of a second man, a Houston engineer, was unclear. The 57-year-old Texas man is an industrial engineer who until October had worked for more than a decade for ENGlobal Corp., a Houston-based firm that provides engineering consulting services and systems to the oil and gas industry.
McCaul said the State Department did not provide more information about the Austin man who escaped the militants.