NEWS

2 Canadians among militants killed in Algeria siege, reports say

01/21/2013 07:17 EST | Updated 03/23/2013 05:12 EDT
Algerian forces have found the bodies of two Canadian Islamist fighters at the remote gas plant that was the scene of a hostage-taking last week that has left at least 81 people dead, reports say.

Documents found on the bodies of two militants had identified them as Canadians, an Algerian security source told Reuters.

The Canadian government said Monday it's aware of reports that Canadians may have been involved in the four-day hostage situation at the Ain Amenas natural gas plant.

"We are pursuing all appropriate channels to seek further information and are in close contact with Algerian authorities," Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Chrystiane Roy told CBC News on Monday.

"Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms this deplorable and cowardly attack and all terrorist groups which seek to create and perpetuate insecurity in the Sahel countries of West Africa."

Death toll rises past 80

Authorities said the takeover was carried out Wednesday by 32 men from six countries, under the command from afar of the one-eyed Algerian bandit Moktar Belmoktar, founder of the Masked Brigade, based in Mali.

- Mokhtar Belmokhtar, al-Qaeda's man in the Sahara?

Armed with heavy machine-guns, rocket launchers, missiles and grenades, the militants singled out foreign workers — from countries including Japan, Britain, the Philippines and Romania — at the plant, killing some of them on the spot and attaching explosive belts to others.

Algerian forces stormed the gas plant on Saturday, bringing the four-day hostage situation to a violent end. Algerian authorities began searching the refinery for explosive traps left behind by the attackers and found dozens more bodies. At least 25 more bodies were found Sunday, but many were so badly disfigured that it was unclear whether they were hostages or militants, a security official said.

At last count, at least 32 Islamist militants and 23 hostages were killed, according to the Algerian government.

Confirmed dead so far include:

- Six from the Philippines.

- Three from Britain.

- Two from Romania.

- One each from the U.S. and France.

Many hostages remain unaccounted for, including 10 Japanese workers, according to their employer JGC Corp.

Five Norwegian employees of Statoil are still missing, the energy company said Sunday, and the U.K. government said three other Britons are still missing and feared dead.

Four Filipino workers are unaccounted for, said a government spokesman in Manila, and two Malaysians are missing, its government said.

The number of possible American hostages is still unclear. One Texan is dead, the U.S. has confirmed. The militants at first said they were holding seven American hostages, but there has been no official confirmation if any Americans are unaccounted for.

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