By Laura Smith-Spark and Yousuf Basil
Islamists attacked a gas field in eastern Algeria, killing two people and seizing hostages, including Westerners, Algeria's interior minister said Wednesday.
The incident may be linked to France's military support for the government of nearby Mali, according to reports from the region.
The Westerners, accompanied by Algerian security forces, were en route to In Amenas Airport when they were attacked early in the morning by a group of no more than 20 people, the official, Diho Weld Qabliyeh, told Algerian state television. The security forces returned fire, and the attackers withdrew to the base of the petroleum operation, some 3 kilometers away, he said.
Upon arrival at the base, he continued, the attackers "took in a number of Westerners and Algerians - some people told us they were nine, some people told us 12."
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Americans were among the hostages.
Accounts over the number differed.
Read the full CNN.com story here.
As what might be the final battle rages in Libya, another is looming: the political battle to create a functioning democracy.
As Libyan rebels try to consolidate their military gains in Tripoli, the National Transitional Council in Benghazi is trying to activate plans for a political transition.
What role the United States will play in Libya's future isn't yet clear, but most believe it will be a major partner in an international effort.
Getting an interim government in place in Libya as soon as possible is critical, the U.S. State Department says. That government would lead the process of writing a constitution and getting to elections, the building blocks of democracy.
But international assistance will be necessary to put the other blocks in place.