Algeria's PM describes attack by militants; hostage death toll rises

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CAIRO — Algeria's prime minister spoke publicly Monday for the first time about militants' kidnapping of hundreds of foreign and Algerian workers last week, describing an international group of militants, including at least one Canadian, who "coordinated" a well-organized attack that killed 37 people. That an international group of militants could travel hundreds of miles from Mali, where al-Qaida has evolved from a kidnapping group to a terrorist organization, raised new fears about the threat that the rise of Islamic extremism poses to the North African and U.S. interests here.

Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal raised the death toll of the hostage takeover of the Ain Amenas gas plant from 23 to 37, saying the victims came from eight nations.

Twenty-nine Islamic militants also were killed and three were captured, local news agencies reported. They were from Algeria, Egypt, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, the prime minister said in a televised address.

Although the group came from Mali, more than 500 miles away from the plant, the kidnappers entered Algeria from the Libyan border, which sits just 38 miles from the natural gas complex, a joint venture of the British oil giant BP and Algeria's state oil company, the prime minister said.

On Monday, the Obama administration confirmed that three Americans — Victor Lynn Lovelady, Gordon Lee Rowan and Frederick Buttaccio — had been killed. It has yet to say how many are missing. CBS News reported that another seven were rescued.

Sellal said five foreigners were missing, but other nations have reported far more than that. Japanese officials said seven of its citizens were dead and three were missing; Norway's prime minister has confirmed that five of its nationals are missing and eight died. Three Britons are dead and four are missing. Six Filipinos are dead and four remain missing. Two Romanians and one Frenchmen are among the dead, their governments have said.