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British PM blames hostage takers not Algerian authorities for carnage at desert gas plant

(ROUGH CUT ONLY - NO REPORTER NARRATION) Prime Minister David Cameron said on Sunday (January 20) that three British nationals were confirmed dead after a hostage crisis at a gas plant in Algeria and a further three were feared dead. "Tragically, we now know that three British nationals have been killed and a further three are believed to be dead and also a further British resident is also believed to be dead. I know the whole country will want to join with me in giving our sympathy and our condolences to the families who have undergone an absolutely dreadful ordeal and now face life without those very precious loved ones." Like his French counterpart Francois Hollande the PM backed the Algerian authorities response as questions rise about the high death toll - Algeria's Interior Ministry reported on Saturday that 23 hostages and 32 militants were killed and warned on Sunday the toll would rise after its troops launched a final assault on Saturday. "Now, of course people will ask questions about the Algerian response to these events, but I would just say that the responsibility for these deaths lies squarely with the terrorists who launched this vicious and cowardly attack. And I'd also say that when you're dealing with a terrorist incident on this scale with up to 30 terrorists - it is extremely difficult to respond and to get this right in every respect." Cameron also said that militancy in North Africa would be handled with an iron resolve and called for a united global effort to crush the threat posed by al Qaeda-linked groups. "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, and it requires a response that is patient, that is 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." Details are only slowly emerging on what happened during the siege, which marked a serious escalation of unrest in northwestern Africa, where French forces are battling Islamist militants across the Sahara desert in Mali. Up to 107 foreign hostages and 685 Algerian hostages were freed.

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