The Prime Minister disclosed that three British nationals were now known to have died and three more were feared dead after the four-day stand-off in the desert. A UK resident is also believed to have been killed.

As Algerian forces continued dismantling the mines and explosives left by the militants who booby-trapped the sprawling BP gas plant at In Amenas, the Algerian authorities warned that the provisional death toll of 23 hostages was likely to rise.

All 32 militants involved in the attack were reported to have been killed – some of them after reportedly “executing” their foreign captives as Algerian special forces mounted their “final assault” yesterday to take back the facility.

Mr Cameron said the attack was a “stark reminder” of the continuing terrorist threat and vowed to use Britain’s chairmanship of the G8 to ensure that it 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.

“What we face is an extremist, Islamist, al Qaida-linked terrorist group. Just as we had to deal with that in Pakistan and in Afghanistan so the world needs to come together to deal with this threat in north Africa.

“It is linked to al Qaida, it wants to destroy our way of life, it believes in killing as many people as it can. We need to work with others to defeat the terrorists and to close down the ungoverned spaces where they thrive with all the means that we have.”

Foreign Secretary William Hague said that 22 British nationals at the plant who survived the attack had been flown back to the UK overnight in aircraft chartered by BP and the Foreign Office.

Britain’s ambassador to Algiers, Martyn Roper, was returning to In Amenas to co-ordinate the efforts to establish what had happened to the three missing Britons.

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.

“When you are dealing with a terrorist incident on this scale with up to 30 terrorists it is extremely difficult to respond and get this right in every respect.

“We should recognise all that the Algerians have done to work with us and to help and co-ordinate with us, and I would like to thank them for that.”

The Algerian interior ministry said that the troops had no choice but to intervene.

“To avoid a bloody turn of events in response to the extreme danger of the situation, the army’s special forces launched an intervention with efficiency and professionalism to neutralise the terrorist groups that were first trying to flee with the hostages and then blow up the gas facilities,” it said in a statement.

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.

The kidnappers calling themselves “Those Who Sign In Blood” – part of a terrorist splinter group led by the veteran jihadist, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, which broke away from al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb – initially claimed the attack was in retaliation for the French military intervention in neighbouring Mali.

It was subsequently reported that they were demanding the release of two terrorists held in the US, including 1993 World Trade Centre bombing mastermind Omar Abdel Rahman, in return for the release of two US captives.

While he backed the French military action against al Qaida-backed rebels in neighbouring Mali, Mr Hague cautioned against wider western military intervention in the region.

“The primary way of operating has to be through the countries of the region. That has to be the only way to enjoy the greatest possible legitimacy, to bring about a political solution,” he told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show.

“There isn’t a military solution to all the problems of the Sahel. There is a complex mixture of political and economic solutions.”

President Barack Obama said the United States was ready to provide whatever assistance the Algerians needed in the wake of the attack.

“This attack is another reminder of the threat posed by al Qaida and other violent extremist groups in north Africa,” he said in a statement.

“In the coming days, we will remain in close touch with the government of Algeria to gain a fuller understanding of what took place so that we can work together to prevent tragedies like this in the future.”

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said that two Scots, or people with immediate Scottish family connections, were believed to have been killed. There were eight Scots among the survivors.

“The Scottish authorities continue to offer every support to all caught up in this crisis, and we remain in close contact with the UK Government,” he said.

Algerian hostage crisis: David Cameron confirms death of three British nationals … – The Independent
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