By Julian Pecquet - 01/18/13 02:22 PM EST
The U.S. Air Force was in the process of evacuating rescued Americans to Europe early Friday amid reports that the bloody hostage crisis in Algeria might not be over.
Algerian special forces raided the natural-gas compound late Thursday, following air strikes that reportedly killed as many as 35 hostages and several of their captors. Algerian media are reporting that 650 hostages have been rescued but that surviving militants are still holed up in the vast natural gas facility with as many as 60 hostages.
The crisis “remains ongoing,” Britain's Foreign Office said Friday.
National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor said President Obama discussed the situation in Algeria with British Prime Minister David Cameron, and White House officials have been in touch with other countries and BP's security office in London. BP is one of the companies that operate the natural gas facility.
“The President is receiving regular updates from his National Security Team on the ongoing situation in Algeria," Vietor said in a statement. "We are in constant contact with the Government of Algeria and have been clear that our first priority is the safety and security of the hostages."
British and Japanese leaders have expressed doubts about Algeria's rescue operation, while the White House has so far abstained from publicly criticizing Algeria, a crucial ally in the fight against terrorism in northern and western Africa. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Obama administration has also shared its concerns with the Algerian government, however.
“Before the raid began, we urged the Algerians to be cautious and strongly encouraged them to make the safety of the hostages their top priority,” the Journal quotes an Obama administration official as saying.
The militants were demanding an end to the U.S.-backed French military intervention to rout Islamists in neighboring Mali. But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Thursday that the attack appeared to have been planned long before last week's French intervention.
This story was updated at 10:53 a.m.