mali soldiers
The conflict in Mali sparked the raid on the BP oil plant in Algeria

A British national is reportedly one of two people killed in an attack and hostage-taking by al-Qaida-linked militants on an Algerian gas facility operated by BP, Algerian state oil company Sonatrach and Norway's Statoil.

Dozens of foreign workers have been kidnapped in the raid in the In Amenas district, according to reports.

BP confirmed that the site had been attacked and occupied by a group of unidentified armed people. As many as 41 BP workers and sub-contractors including seven Americans, plus Japanese, Irish and French staff, were believed to have been taken hostage by the occupiers.

Algerian troops have surrounded the site and negotiations for the release of the hostages were ongoing. Militant group Katibat Moulathamine, or the Masked Brigade, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for Algeria's support of France's offensive against al-Qaida-linked rebel groups in neighbouring Mali.

The militants added that they had taken 41 hostages representing nine or 10 nationalities.

Prime Minister David Cameron will chair a meeting of the Government's crisis committee Cobra on the incident

Conflicting reports about the number and identities of the hostages made the situation difficult to assess. Initial reports said that five Japanese and a 36-year-old married Irishman were among them. A Norwegian woman said her husband called her saying he had been taken hostage.

The natural gas complex, the third largest in the country, is a joint venture of British Petroleum, Norway's Statoil and the Algerian Sonatrach company located some 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) south of the capital near the Libyan border.

Algeria's state news agency, Algerie Presses Service, reported that two foreigners were killed - one Briton and the other a French national.

The hostages were seized from the plant in the region of In Amenas, 60 miles (100km) from the Libyan border, according to Reuters.

The abduction of the Irish worker brought a swift response from Ireland's foreign affairs and trade minister Eamon Gilmore who demanded  his immediate release.

Algeria has allowed France to go though its airspace to conduct air raids against Islamist rebels in Mali. 

The natural gas complex, the third largest in the country, is a joint venture of British Petroleum, Norway's Statoil and the Algerian Sonatrach company located some 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) south of the capital near the Libyan border.