State Dept. refuses hostage exchange: ‘U.S. does not negotiate with terrorists’

An American was confirmed dead Friday while being held hostage by Islamic militants in an Algerian natural gas facility, according to several media outlets.

Fox News said it confirmed that Texas resident Frederick Buttaccio died of a heart attack when the Algerian military raided the facility in an attempt to free 132 employees taken hostage.

“U.S. officials have refused to confirm the number of Americans still captive or unaccounted for because they say that might compromise their safety,” the Associated Press reported.

Algerian state news service said that 100 of the hostages were released, but no information is available on the remaining 32 employees.

Though many in the international community have been critical of Algeria’s handling of the hostage crisis, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters Friday that the militants should be the ones held accountable.

“Let’s not forget: This is an act of terror,” Clinton said. “The perpetrators are the terrorists. They are the ones who have assaulted this facility, have taken hostage Algerians and others from around the world as they were going about their daily business.”

The militants said the attack was in retaliation to France’s recent military strike on Islamic rebels in Mali, Africa. But in an Associated Press report, security experts discounted that contention, saying the planning and coordination of the Algerian siege “must have taken weeks of planning to hit the remote site.”

The al-Qaida-led Mali group, Masked Brigade, has offered the release of two U.S. captives in exchange for the release of “Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind sheikh convicted of plotting to blow up New York City landmarks and considered the spiritual leader of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist convicted of shooting at two U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Both are jailed in the United States,” the AP reported.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said U.S. officials rejected the offer, citing a long-held policy that the “United States does not negotiate with terrorists.”

Watch Clinton talk to reporters about the Algerian hostage situation:

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