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Explosion at Algeria Natural Gas Plant Kills 23

Algerian authorities say an explosion at the country's largest natural gas plant late Monday has left at least 23 people dead and more than 70 others injured.

They the blast in the port city of Skikda, about 500 kilometers east of Algiers, also shut down all activity at the plant, which liquefies natural gas and is said to employ more than 12,000 people.

The explosion, which was heard several kilometers away, also caused a major fire that raged for several hours before being brought under control.

Authorities say an investigation is underway to determine the cause of the explosion. But news reports quote refinery officials as saying it was most likely accidental.

Algeria, one of the world's largest exporters of natural gas, is a key supplier to Europe.

The Algerian government has been in the midst of a major crackdown against Islamic extremists after struggling for the past 10 years to end an Islamic insurgency.