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Algerian hostage crisis heightens as scores are reported dead (+video)

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Two hostages, identified as British and Irish, spoke to Al Jazeera television and called on the Algerian army to withdraw from the area to avoid casualties.

"We are receiving care and good treatment from the kidnappers. The (Algerian) army did not withdraw and they are firing at the camp," the British man said. "There are around 150 Algerian hostages. We say to everybody that negotiations is a sign of strength and will spare many any loss of life."

Reuters adds that US, French, and British officials did not confirm the numbers of their respective citizens who were being held by the terrorist group.

Although the raid on the field comes just days after the start of France's intervention in Mali, a campaign which the hostage-takers in Algeria demand must end, experts say that it is unlikely the attack was a spur-of-the-moment response to events in Mali. Helima Croft, a Barclays Capital senior geopolitical strategist, told The New York Times that “This type of attack had to have advanced planning. It’s not an easy target of opportunity.” 

And CNN notes that the attack's purported mastermind, Algerian militant Moktar Belmoktar, warned a month ago that his group, the Al-Mulathameen Brigade or "The Brigade of the Masked Ones," would soon attack Western interests in the region.

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