Uncertainty at Forefront of Ongoing Algerian Hostage Crisis

Western powers still determining size and scope as Algeria boxes them out.

An unidentified rescued hostage receives treatment in a hospital Ain Amenas, Algeria, Jan. 18, 2013.
By + More

The hostage situation in Algeria remains opaque as Western powers, largely kept in the dark by the local government, struggle to determine the size and scope of Islamic extremist attack.

Hostages from at least 10 different countries are still being held by a band of al Qaeda-linked militants at a British Petroleum natural gas complex in the Saharan country, according to CBS News. The remoteness of the facility roughly a thousand miles from the capital of Algiers further complicates intelligence gathering.

[PHOTOS: The Algeria Hostage Crisis]

Algeria has led much of the military response, deploying helicopters and special forces on Thursday. Its state news agency says roughly 60 foreign hostages are still missing.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron describes the attack as "brutal and savage," reports the Telegraph. He expressed relief that the number of British casualties was not as high as previously estimated, but could still be 10 or 12.

[PHOTOS: French Troops Deploy to Mali]

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the United States is "working around the clock to ensure the safe return of our citizens," CBS reports. Anyone who attacks the U.S. will have "no place to hide," he said.

The attacks are believed to be retribution from elements of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb against Mali for allowing French forces to use its airspace in its ongoing campaign against militants in Mali.

The kidnappers, reportedly from the group al Mulathameen, appear to be well armed and well trained, according to the New York Times.

U.S. Africa Command flew out Americans and others associated with the hostage crisis, the Times says. The Algerian military continues its operations without consulting other governments whose citizens may be at the plant.

More News: