Four gunmen disguised as airport workers took control of a French jetliner with 283 people aboard at Algiers airport Saturday and French radio reported at least two people were killed.

Radio France-Info quoted Algeria's interior minister as saying the gunmen killed two people and wanted the plane to take off for an undisclosed destination.The radio report said Algeria's Interior Minister Abderrahmane Meziane Cherif said one of the two was an Algerian policeman passenger on the Air France Airbus 300.

Paris airport sources said the gunmen mingled with tarmac crews at Algiers airport before pulling out weapons, blocking the takeoff of Air France Flight 8969 to Paris and boarding the jetliner, which had 271 passengers and 12 crew aboard.

The gunmen later released 55 of their hostages in batches, including at least 29 women and seven children. Flights to and from the Algerian capital were canceled as police cleared people from the terminal and surrounded the airliner.

The official Algerian news agency APS said Cherif was at the airport with the head of national security.

Algerian television said authorities were negotiating with the hijackers whose demands were "unclear." Their identities were not disclosed.

The released passenger was quoted as saying they were young Muslim extremists who terrorized passengers, prayed and handed scarves to women passengers to cover their heads.

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The TV report said witnesses saw two wounded passengers being dumped into the open cargo hold and gesturing for help as the hijackers fired to keep police at bay.

Civil strife between Muslim extremists and security forces has killed 10,000 to 20,000 people in Algeria since authorities canceled a general election the Islamic Salvation Front had been poised to win nearly three years ago.

APS said security forces shot dead 40 armed fundamentalist guerrillas in four days this week.

Most of the passengers aboard the airlner were Algerian. Some reports said 10 French nationals including two diplomats were also on board in addition to the 12 French crew.

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