Algeria\'s Sonatrach and major Italian energy firm ENI on Monday announced the production start-up of a $1.3 billion wet gas project in the southeast desert region, rocked by a deadly hostage attack last month. The Menzel Ledjmet East (MLE) field in the rich Berkine Basin has a daily production capacity of nine million cubic metres (318 million cubic feet) of gas, 15,000 barrels of oil and condensate, and 12,000 barrels of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas), the companies said. The field, located 1,000 kilometres (625 miles) southeast of Algiers and jointly operated by ENI and Sonatrach, was brought onstream last Thursday. The Italian firm, the leading foreign oil and gas producer in Algeria, bought the MLE permit from Canada\'s First Calgary Petroleum in December 2008. Algeria is a major gas exporter, supplying around a quarter of Europe\'s natural gas, but production has fallen in recent years. Its energy sector was rocked last month when Islamist gunmen thought to have come from Libya carried out a hostage-taking attack on In Amenas wet gas field, one of the country\'s largest, that left 37 foreigners dead. Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi pledged shortly afterwards to beef up security at oil and gas sites across the country. The MLE gas field is located in Block 405b, around 200 kilometres (120 miles) north of In Amenas. Sonatrach said that development of the MLE project, including the construction of a treatment plant and pipelines, cost a total of around $1.3 billion (one billion euros). The incremental oil and gas production would \"allow Sonatrach to achieve its goals in terms of raising its capacity to guarantee supplies to the national market and deliveries to the international market.\"