A north-east man was last night feared to be one of the Scots oil workers kidnapped by al-Qaeda terrorists in the north African desert.
A BP employee from the Banff and Buchan area was understood to be among scores of hostages captured by gunmen at the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria.
A police liaison officer was believed to be with the family last night, as conflicting reports about a rescue attempt by Algerian forces emerged.
Local state media reported during the afternoon that some hostages had escaped or been liberated – including two Scots, one from France and another from Kenya.
Other reports suggested that the UK Government feared multiple British casualties. Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford met officials from the Foreign Office yesterday to discuss the crisis.
Last night, she told the Press and Journal: “It is my understanding there could be at least one person from the north-east involved.
“However, there’s a lot of uncertainty at the moment and it’s not possible to confirm anything at this time.
“My thoughts are very much with the families affected.
“We just have to hope and pray that the situation is resolved with as few casualties as possible.”
It is understood that another Scots worker, from the Perth area, could have been among those captured.
It is believed that a worker from the Glasgow area was released by the terrorists.
It is thought the young man was on his last trip to Algeria before taking up a job with Total on installations off Shetland.
Unconfirmed reports suggested other hostages may have been from the Fife and Renfrew areas.
First Minister Alex Salmond confirmed at Holyrood that “a number” of the hostages were Scottish.
He added: “The priority is their safety and of course to keep the families informed.
“The Scottish Police Service is fully engaged with the Metropolitan Police on the latter and Scottish Government ministers are in contact with the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices on the former.
“This is hugely serious situation and I know the whole chamber is united both in condemnation of the attack and also looking for the early and safe release of the hostages.”
BP runs the In Amenas plant with Norway’s Statoil and Algerian energy firm Sonatrach.
The oil and gas industry giant – which employs 1,300 people at its Aberdeen base – began evacuating other workers from Algeria yesterday.
It was understood that BP and the UK Government were not informed of the assault on the site by the Algerian authorities before it began.
Statoil said yesterday it had 12 employees being held hostage.
A Japanese contractor, JGC, had staff working on the field and said some of its staff were seized.
The firm said: “We are attempting to confirm the facts of the situation at the moment, and will continue to communicate with authorities asking them to protect the lives of our staff.”
BP group chief executive Bob Dudley said: “Supporting these families is our priority and we are doing all we can to help during this sad and uncertain time.
“We will provide updates as soon as information is available.
“We are in contact with the UK and Algerian Governments and will provide updates as soon as further confirmed information is available.”
Earlier this month Petrofac won a services contract on the field, as well as the In Salah gas field, working for the joint venture partners.
However, the contract has yet to start. A spokesman for Petrofac said all its Algeria-based staff were safe and accounted for.
BP has been operating in Algeria since the mid-1950s and describes itself as the largest foreign investor in the country.
As well as being a partner with Sonatrach and Statoil on the In Amenas project, it is also a partner with the pair on the In Salah project. Both supply gas to the domestic and European markets.
In addition, BP is partner to Sonatrach in the Bourarhat Sud block, located to the South West of In Amenas.
In September 2010, the Algerian Government approved an extension to the second prospecting period for this block.