Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, traveling in Italy, seemed to raise the possibility that the United States might take military action in response.
“By all indications this is a terrorist act,” Mr. Panetta said. “It is a very serious matter when Americans are taken hostage along with others.” He also said: “I want to assure the American people that the United States will take all necessary and proper steps that are required to deal with this situation.”
The exact number of people being held was still far from certain. A top Algerian government official said 20 Islamist militants had attacked the gas field and that security services had now “encircled the base” so that “no one can leave.” Concerning the number of hostages, he said that “the situation is confused for the moment,” and that there might be as many as 30. “We don’t have precise figures for now.” NYT
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