At least four foreigners and 13 others were wounded after Algerian forces launched an operation to free a group of hostages from their al Qaeda-linked kidnappers, Algerian state TV reported Thursday.
The government of Algeria attempted to rescue the hostages, including several Americans, who were held by Islamic militants near an oil complex in the Sahara Desert, Thursday.
The raid, however, may have resulted in the deaths of most of those kidnapped. Islamic militants said earlier 35 were killed along with 15 militants after Algerian military helicopters attacked with machine guns.
A U.S. official said the Obama administration offered to help with the rescue but the Algerian government refused. The militants say seven hostages survived, including two Americans.
The deadly rescue attempt also raises the stakes in the French military campaign underway in neighboring Mali.
The French began air strikes last week and hundreds of French marines are now launching a ground offensive. They're trying to stop an al Qaeda linked group from taking over Mali.
Intelligence officials believe another al Qaeda leader, Mokhtar Belmokhtara, orchestrated the hostage-taking in Algeria. His group said the attack was in retaliation for the French action in Mali.
The United State has condemned the militants for holding Americans and others hostage at the oil plant. The plant is located in an isolated area 800 miles south of the capital, Algiers, in the Sahara Desert.
The White House is still trying to determine the status of the American hostages. It has not spoken publicly about how many there are and how many are still in captivity or even alive.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that the administration is monitoring the situation closely and remains in contact with the Algerian government.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States is also in contact with American businesses across North Africa and the Middle East to help them guard against the possibility of copycat attacks.
The situation in Algeria began Wednesday morning when about 20 Islamic militants attacked a bus filled with international workers.
Although two cars with security teams were escorting the bus, the terrorists were able to take control and move the workers next to the oil compound.
Algerian forces have since surrounded the complex in a tense stand-off, vowing not to negotiate with the kidnappers.