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Algeria hostage crisis: death toll rises to 81

Three British nationals are now known to have died in the four-day siege, which finally ended on Saturday, and three more are believed to be dead. A UK resident is also thought to have died.

The first of the British victims to be officially named was 46-year-old Paul Morgan, reported to be a former Foreign Legion soldier and Gulf War veteran who was in charge of security at the In Amenas plant.

Mr Morgan was described by his mother Marianne, 65, and partner Emma Steele, 36, as a "true gentleman" who died doing the job he loved.

In a statement they said: "Paul was a true gentleman, a family man, he very much loved his partner Emma, his mum, brothers and sister, of whom he was very proud.

"He loved life and lived it to the full. He was a professional man proud to do the job he did and died doing the job he loved.

"We are so proud of him and so proud of what he achieved in his life. We are devastated by Paul's death and he will be truly missed.

"We would like to thank the Family Support officers who are helping us through this difficult time."

Others were reported to be Scot Kenneth Whiteside, a 59-year-old from Glenrothes, Fife, who lived in Johannesburg with his wife and two daughters, and Garry Barlow, 49, a married father of two from Liverpool who was a system supervisor for BP at the In Amenas plant.

Carlos Estrada, a Colombian executive for BP who lived in Chelsea, west London, is also reported to have died.

The Algerian authorities warned last night that the confirmed toll of 23 hostages killed at the remote In Amenas facility was set to rise sharply.

Bomb squads searching for booby-trap devices left by the Islamist militants discovered 25 bodies, some so badly disfigured they could not be identified.

Thirty-two terrorists also died and there were reports last night that five others had been captured alive. In addition, a Romanian who had been evacuated died, bringing the death toll to at least 81.

The veteran jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar sent a video to a Mauritanian-based news website in which he claimed one of his cells, known as "Those Who Sign In Blood", was responsible for the attack.

In the video - which was said to have been recorded while the siege was still going on and was not posted on the Sahara Media website - he offered to negotiate with Algeria and the West if they halted the bombing of Muslims in Mali.

Mr Cameron said the attack was a "stark reminder" of the continuing threat from international terrorism and vowed to use Britain's presidency of the G8 to ensure the issue was right at the top of the international agenda.

"This is a global threat and it will require a global response. It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months," he said.

"It requires a response that is patient and painstaking, that is tough but also intelligent, but above all has an absolutely iron resolve, and that is what we will deliver over these coming years."

His language carried striking echoes of Tony Blair's rhetoric before Britain's military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite the heavy loss of life, Mr Cameron refused to criticise the hardline tactics of the Algerian government which right from the start ruled out any negotiation with the terrorists.

"The responsibility for these deaths lies squarely with the terrorists who launched these vicious and cowardly attacks," he said.

The Algerian interior ministry said it had had to send in special forces to mount a final assault after the militants tried first to flee with their hostages and then to blow up the entire facility.

Troops later recovered a terrorist arsenal of six machine guns, 21 rifles, two shotguns, two 60mm mortars with shells, six 60mm missiles with launchers, two rocket-propelled grenades with eight rockets and 10 grenades in explosive belts.

Meanwhile, the 22 British nationals at the plant who survived the attack were recovering at home with their families having been flown back to the UK in aircraft chartered by BP and the Foreign Office.

The bodies of two Canadians, who were among Islamists killed during the crisis, have been recovered from the site of the siege, according to private television Ennahar.

[Source: The Telegraph, London, 21Jan13]

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