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Sahara hostage death toll will rise, Algeria warns

After the death of Western workers in an attack on a gas plant in the Sahara, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta vows to hunt down the militants responsible. NBC News' Annabel Roberts reports.

The death toll in the bloody Algeria hostage siege is likely to rise, Algeria warned on Sunday as governments struggled to confirm reports 23 Western workers – including some Americans - had been killed.

A day after the desert crisis was ended by Algerian troops, 25 bodies were discovered inside the gas pumping facility that was stormed by Islamist militants on Wednesday, according to reports cited by Reuters and the Associated Press.

Confusion still surrounds the deadly incident, which has renewed global fears about the likelihood of terror attacks and the safety of Westerners around the world.


It has also left other governments, including Britain, with a frustrating wait for further information out of the west African country.

Algeria’s government said Saturday that 23 hostages and 32 militants were killed during ‘rescue’ assaults launched by its own forces, with 107 foreign hostages and 685 Algerian hostages freed.

However, Minister of Communication Mohamed Said this would rise when final numbers were issued in the coming hours, Reuters reported.

"I am afraid unfortunately to say that the death toll will go up," Said was quoted as saying by the official APS news agency.

The U.S. government confirmed Friday that one of the dead hostages was Frederick Buttaccio from Texas.

The exact number of other Americans involved, and their fate, remains unclear.

President Barack Obama said on Saturday the United States was seeking from Algerian authorities a fuller understanding of what took place, but said "the blame for this tragedy rests with the terrorists who carried it out."

Britain on Sunday confirmed that three of its citizens and one British resident had been killed in the Algerian military operation.

Prime Minister David Cameron echoed Obama’s sentiments, saying responsibility for the deaths “lies squarely with the terrorists who launched the attack,” regardless of questions about the Algerian government's response.

The hostage-taking illustrated the global threat of terrorism which “requires a global response,” Cameron said Sunday.

One Briton had already was confirmed killed when the gunmen seized the hostages before dawn on Wednesday at the plant, run by Norway's Statoil along with Britain's BP and Algeria's state oil company.

The AP reported that "numerous" bodies were found at the pumping facility by Algerian de-mining squads searching for explosives, according to an Algerian government spokesman.

Statoil said five of its workers, all Norwegian nationals, were still missing. Japanese workers are also unaccounted for, Reuters said.

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