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Algeria says hostage rescue continues at gas plant

This Oct. 8, 2012 satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe shows the Amenas Gas Field in Algeria, which is jointly operated by BP and Norway's Statoil and Algeria's Sonatrach. Algerian special forces launched a rescue operation Thursday at the plant in the Sahara Desert and freed foreign hostages held by al-Qaida-linked militants, but estimates for the number of dead varied wildly from four to dozens. (AP Photo/DigitalGlobe)

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) -- Algeria's state news agency says the military assault to free hostages being held by Islamic militants is continuing at a remote desert gas installation, and the plant's living quarters have been secured.

Citing security officials, the news service released a radio report saying Algerian special forces have killed 18 militants and were continuing an assault Friday on the main gas plant.

Algeria's government has kept a tight grip on information, but it was clear that the militant assault that began Wednesday has killed at least six people from the factory — and perhaps many more.

Militants claimed that military helicopters opened fire Thursday when they were transporting hostages from the living quarters to the main factory area, and that 35 hostages and 15 militants died in the strafing.