The Algerian army's rescue operation has freed nearly 650 hostages, including around 70 foreigners, it has been reported.
'Nearly 650 hostages seized in the attack carried out on Wednesday by a terrorist group at the In Amenas gas complex, among them 573 Algerians and more than half of the 132 foreign hostages, were freed,' the APS news agency reported.
Algeria's state news service says about 60 foreign hostages are unaccounted for in the standoff with Islamist militants now entering its third day.
The news service said more than half the 132 foreign hostages had been freed, but the report could not account for the rest. The report on Friday also said special forces had resumed negotiations after an assault Thursday at the gas plant deep in the Sahara.
A Mauritanian news site that frequently receives messages from al-Qaeda linked militants said the hostage-takers in Algeria had offered to trade two captive Americans for two jailed terror figures in the United States.
One of the two, Omar Abdel Rahman, masterminded the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.
Mauritania's ANI news agency reported the gunmen holding hostages in Algeria wanted to negotiate an end to French intervention in Mali and exchange American hostages for prisoners held in the United States, quoting sources close to their leader.
ANI reported that the sources close to Mokhtar Belmokhtar said he had proposed that France and Algeria negotiate 'an end to the war being waged by France in Azawad' (northern Mali).
In what ANI said was a video that would be distributed to the media, Belmokhtar also proposes 'exchanging American hostages held by his group (the 'Signatories in Blood') for Egyptian Omar Abdelrahman and Pakistani Afiah Sidiqi, jailed in the United States on charges of terrorist links'.