American hostages taken in Algeria

A number of hostages seized by an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group are Americans, U.S. officials confirmed Wednesday.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told his traveling press corps in Italy that American citizens were among those taken hostage in a terrorist attack in Algeria, according to the Associated Press. State Department officials also confirmed they were monitoring the crisis.

AP reports put the number of American hostages at seven. A spokesman for the extremist group said Japanese, British, and French citizens were also taken, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The militants are from Mali and have reportedly taken 41 hostages in all during seizure of an Algerian oil field. The field is operated by BP and several other foreign energy companies.

Panetta has said the U.S. government will take “necessary and proper” steps to recover the American hostages.