By Carlo Muñoz - 01/17/13 06:25 PM EST
The drone was deployed on a surveillance mission over the BP-operated oil field in western Algeria, overrun by Islamic militant groups with ties to al Qaeda terror cells in the region on Wednesday, a U.S. military official tells Reuters.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to comment on the aircraft's possible deployment to Algeria or whether the aircraft was tied to ongoing efforts by the Obama administration to secure the release of the American hostages.
"Right now our priority is determining the status of the Americans involved and determining what happened," Carney told reporters Thursday at the White House.
Members of Islamic militant "Masked Brigade" and the "Signers in Blood" reportedly raided the BP complex in retaliation for the ongoing counterterrorism operations by France to clear out al Qaeda strongholds in the West African nation of Mali.
The White House has agreed to provide intelligence and military logistics support to the French offensive in northern Mali, which has been ongoing since Sunday.
Several U.S. citizens, along with hundreds of Western foreign nationals were taken hostage during the brazen attack. On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta characterized the strike as an "terrorist act" and said the Pentagon is taking "the necessary and proper steps" to address the situation.
News of the U.S. drone in Algeria comes amid reports on Thursday of Algerian airstrikes against the oil field, in an attempt to free the hostages.
Algerian helicopters reportedly fired into the BP complex, killing 30 hostages and 15 gunmen, according to reports by local media in the country.
Over 40 Algerian and western hostages allegedly escaped the oil field compound prior to the helicopter attack, The New York Times reported on Thursday.
Carney said on Thursday that administration officials were still "seeking clarity" on those reports and are working with Algiers to gain more insight into the situation.