American Hostages Escape From Algeria Terrorists

ABC News' Martha Raddatz reports the latest on the dramatic rescue mission in Africa.
3:00 | 01/17/13

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Transcript for American Hostages Escape From Algeria Terrorists
-- turned out to the latest developments surrounding the Americans held hostage in North Africa by terrorists. With links to al-Qaeda today after a chaotic rescue attempt. US officials tell ABC news they believe at least three Americans remain in captivity. ABC's chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz has the latest details. -- night somewhere in this sprawling natural gas complex in one of the most remote parts of the Sahara Desert. Some Americans along with at least fifteen others including British and French are being held hostage by Islamic militants. It began at dawn yesterday when twenty heavily armed militants attacked buses carrying the Americans and other workers around the the -- gas plant. A fire fight broke out reportedly killing -- British citizen the hostages within rounded up. Reportedly forced to -- explosives around their necks. We spoke exclusively to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta here in Italy. Who had no doubt who was behind this I don't think there's any question that based on what we do you know that this was terrorist factor and that the terrorists. Have affiliation with the current social -- slow moving nationwide. But tonight in this situation is even more dire and after the Algerian military trying to -- rescue the hostages. In a raid that clearly went terribly wrong. The Algerian armed forces have now attacked this -- and it is a very dangerous and very uncertain -- very fluid situation. And I think we have to prepare ourselves for the possibility. -- bad news ahead. The Algerian military operations began this morning with no warning to the US or British the algerians moved in with helicopters. Fearing they say that the militants were trying to escape. The algerians say they managed to kill some of the militants but hostages were killed as well. Well there are -- there were but I think about a hundred people that were involved. In the the facilities there. How many of them are actually being held hostage we just -- At least some of the Americans did manage to escape as well as Irish workers Stephen McFall. McFall told his family how we leapt to safety from his vehicle. After it came under bombardment began using when he he can have a party they -- they held. And I didn't -- her compound. But the fate of the Americans still held hostage and the others is unknown. Tonight many families are preparing for the worst amid growing reports of casualties. And she's not -- they being the mastermind behind the mass kidnapping need to start to -- this man. Forty year old -- -- -- -- said to be an al-Qaeda commander in North Africa. 19 veteran of the Afghan conflict called mr. Marlboro for his criminal smuggling. And said to be untouchable. The militants say they attacked the complex in retaliation for a French led assault in neighboring Mali. France intervened last week to repulse an Islamic insurgency. That was threatening the capital opening up a new front in the war on terror. This attack against Weston interests -- -- -- against western alliance in particular we'll have huge. Consequences on the whole region. The global war on Tara which has so far focused on countries like you wrong and indeed -- stone. Is now shifting in Africa. One jihadist leader -- that the French action had opened the gates of hell. There is no proof of the -- but many believe it is not a coincidence. It's a direct consequence of. The French intervention in the ongoing crisis in Long Beach Jim has openly supported. The French intervention and it -- a -- And the revenge attack against such support. But in this complex tonight in Algeria this situation is far from over. A US surveillance drone is now flying overhead and US officials are hoping that somehow those hostages still inside. Can make their way out alive. For Nightline I'm Martha Raddatz -- -- that Italy.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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