Seven hostages have been killed as Algerian special forces mounted a final assault on the Islamist militants holding out in the BP gas plant, it was reported on Saturday.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said that while the large majority of Britons at the BP gas plant at In Amenas were now safe, the country needed to be prepared for more “bad news”.
“As of now there are fewer than 10 British nationals at risk or unaccounted for. But that of course means that we continue to prepare ourselves bad news,” he said.
The Algerian state news agency, APS, reported that seven hostages died as Algerian special forces mounted a “final assault” on the last terrorists holding out at the sprawling gas facility.
Eleven of the militants were also reported to have died in the shoot-out.
Mr Hague, who chaired a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergencies committee, said he had spoken to the Algerian foreign minister but made no mention of today’s fighting.
“This whole incident underlines the scale and ruthlessness of the terrorist threat that we and other nations face,” he said.
“We underline our resolve to deal with that and to defeat terrorism and murder, working with allies across the world, including in north Africa.”
He said that a consular team was now on the ground in In Amenas providing assistance to those Britons who had escaped while the ambassador Martyn Roper was travelling to the area.
The situation at the plant remained unclear, with reports that 16 foreign nationals - including two Americans, two Germans and a Portuguese - had been freed.
APS quoted an Algerian security source as saying that the hostages who died had been killed by their captors.
Earlier, the kidnappers - who call themselves the Masked Brigade or “The Signers in Blood” - told a Mauritanian news agency they are in contact with that they were holding seven foreigners - one British, three Belgians, two Americans and one Japanese.
Meanwhile a Belfast man held hostage in Algeria is expected to be reunited with his family on Saturday.
Father-of-two Stephen McFaul, 36, managed to flee from the al Qaida-linked kidnappers who stormed the BP gas field complex at In Amenas.
A spokesman for his family said the electrician supervisor had been flown into London’s Gatwick Airport on a specially chartered flight on Friday night.
However, meetings with UK Foreign Office officials and difficult weather conditions delayed the final leg of his journey.
He is expected to arrive in Belfast some time on Friday.
Despite having explosives placed around his neck, Mr McFaul was able to escape when a vehicle he was in crashed after being attacked by the Algerian army, his brother Brian said.
He had been held for two days but made contact with his wife Angela at about 3pm on Thursday to say he was safe and well.
The oil worker’s eldest son Dylan, 13, said he could not wait to give him a “big hug”.
“I am very happy, I just cannot wait for him to come home,” Dylan said.
The family spokesman described Mr McFaul’s mood as bright and said he was nervously excited about returning home.
An exact time for his arrival has not yet been confirmed.