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UPDATE 1-Algeria crisis seems to be nearing dramatic end-Hollande

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PARIS, Jan 17 (Reuters) - The Algerian hostage crisis seems to be nearing a dramatic end, French President Francois Hollande said on Thursday, adding that events at the desert gas plant showed his intervention in Mali to combat Islamist rebels was justified.

Twenty-five foreign hostages escaped and six were killed on Thursday when Algerian forces launched an operation to free them at the remote plant, Algerian sources said, as one of the biggest international hostage crises in decades unfolded.

"This all seems to be heading towards an end in dramatic conditions," Hollande said at the start of a speech to business leaders. "What is happening in Algeria justifies all the more the decision I made in the name of France to intervene in Mali in line with the U.N. charter."

However, he added that he did not yet have enough information to allow a proper assessment of the situation.

French aircraft began bombing the rebels in Mali who were advancing on the capital Bamako last week and sent in ground troops. However, Paris eventually wants to hand over leadership of the campaign to forces from the ECOWAS group of West African nations.

"This is about halting a terrorist aggression and allowing the Africans to mobilise to restore Mali's territorial integrity," said Hollande.

Following the intervention, fellow Islamists seized the hostages at the gas plant across the Sahara desert.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130117/update-1-algeria-crisis-seems-be-nearing-dramatic-end-hollande