Militants Occupy BP Gas Complex in Algeria

This undated image released by BP shows the Amenas natural gas field in Algeria, where Islamist militants raided and took hostages on Jan. 16, 2013.

This undated image released by BP shows the Amenas natural gas field in Algeria, where Islamist militants raided and took hostages on Jan. 16, 2013.

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Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the kidnapped foreigners possibly include Japanese employees of JGC.

"We are certain that JGC is the one affected," Suga said, adding that the government is now negotiating with local officials through diplomatic channels, asking to protect the lives of the Japanese nationals.

Statoil said that it has 20 employees in the facility. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry said it could not confirm that any Norwegian citizens had been abducted. The Norwegian Newspaper Bergens Tidende, however, said a 55-year-old Norwegian working on the site called his wife to say he had been abducted.

Algeria had long warned against military intervention against the rebels in northern Mali, fearing the violence could spill over its own long and porous border. Though its position softened slightly after Hollande visited Algiers in December, Algerian authorities remain skeptical about the operation and worried about its consequences on the region.

Algeria is Africa's biggest country, and has been an ally of the U.S. and France in fighting terrorism for years. But its relationship with France has been fraught with lingering resentment over colonialism and the bloody war for independence that left Algeria a free country 50 years ago.

Algeria's strong security forces have struggled for years against Islamist extremists, and have in recent years managed to nearly snuff out violence by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb around its home base in northern Algeria. In the meantime, AQIM moved its focus southward.

AQIM has made tens of millions of dollars off kidnapping in the region, abducting Algerian businessmen or political figures, and sometimes foreigners, for ransom.

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Schemm reported from Rabat, Morocco. Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Jill Lawless in London, Jan Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, Esam Mohamed in Tripoli, Libya and Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this report.

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