The Prime Minister confirmed to MPs that three British nationals were known to have been killed in the attack on the In Amenas gas field and a further three were believed to be dead, along with a Colombian who lived in the UK.

Mr Cameron said his deepest condolences were with the families of the victims and told the Commons work to clear the site of potential traps was continuing.

He said: “Now our most vital work is bringing home those who died. An international team of British, American and Norwegian experts is in close co-operation with the Algerian ministry of justice undertaking the task of formally identifying their bodies.

”We want this process to happen as swiftly as possible but it will involve some intensive forensic and policing work and so may take some time.“

Mr Cameron told MPs it was ”important to put on record“ the scale of what happened at the gas field, which is near the Libyan border.

He added: ”There is still some uncertainty around the precise facts, but we believe that in total there were some 800 employees working at the In Amenas site at the time of the attack, about 135 of whom were foreign nationals.

“At least 12 were killed with at least a further 20 unaccounted for and feared dead.

”The Algerian prime minister has said today 37 foreign hostages were killed.

“The number of terrorists was over 30. Most were killed during the incident but a small number are in Algerian custody.”

Despite telling MPs last week he was “disappointed” not to have been told in advance by the Algerian government of its plans to send in its military forces, Mr Cameron said Britain should “recognise all that the Algerians have done to confront this attack”.

He added: “I am sure the House will understand the challenges that Algeria faced in dealing with over 30 terrorists bent on killing innocent people in a large and extremely remote and dangerous industrial complex.

”This would have been a most demanding task for security forces anywhere in the world and we should acknowledge the resolve shown by the Algerians in undertaking it.

“Above all the responsibility for these deaths lies squarely with the terrorists.”

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.

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, were also killed.

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

Labour leader Ed Miliband said his thoughts were with the families enduring an “unimaginable nightmare” as they received news of loved ones killed in the crisis.

“This was pre-meditated, cold blooded murder of the most brutal kind. And behind each lost life is a family of loved ones who are in our thoughts today,” he said.

Labour would give its “full support” to both bringing those behind the terrorist outrage to justice and dealing with the wider issue of al Qaida-linked groups in the region.

Mr Cameron said terrorist activity in North Africa had often been fed by hostage ransoms and wider criminality but the area was also becoming a “magnet for jihadists” from other countries.

That threat demands a “tough, intelligent and patient” international response, he added.

“We must be realistic and hard headed about the threats we face.

”Our role is to support the Governments of the region in their resolve to combat this menace, as many are doing at great cost.

“So we will work closely with the Algerian government to learn the lessons of this attack, and to deepen our security cooperation.

”And we will contribute British intelligence and counter-terrorism assets to an international effort to find and dismantle the network that planned and ordered the brutal assault at In Amenas.“

Earlier today, Foreign Secretary William Hague has denied that Western intervention in Libya has fuelled the spread of extremism in northern and western Africa.

As the death toll from the terror attack on a gas plant in Algeria rose above 80, including up to six Britons, Mr Hague insisted that military action taken by Britain and France had ”mitigated“ the instability caused by the insurrection against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

That insurrection has been blamed for a flow of weapons and militant fighters into countries such as Mali over the past year.

Earlier today Prime Minister David Cameron chaired a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee to discuss the fallout from the Algerian hostage crisis.

Three British nationals are known to have died in the four-day siege at the In Amenas gas facility, which finally ended on Saturday, and three more are feared dead. A Colombian-born UK resident is also thought to have died.

At least 81 people have now been reported dead, including 32 Islamist militants, 23 hostages and 25 bodies found as Algerian forces searched the plant for explosives yesterday, many of whom were so badly disfigured it was impossible to identify whether they were workers or members of the terror gang.

And it has today been claimed that Westerners, including two Canadians and a Frenchman, were likely to be among the Al Qaeda terrorists responsible for the attack.

Canadian passports were found on the badly charred corpses of two terrorists, the bodies of whom were found close to victims who had been forced to wear explosive belts before being killed.

The Daily Mail reported one security source as confirming that Canadians are suspected of having travelled to Libya, where they joined extremists waging Jihad against the west.

And citing Algerian judicial sources, the French newspaper Le Parisien also reported that there was ‘at least one Frenchman’ among the terrorists.

The man’s name has now reportedly been passed on to France’s DCRI domestic security agency.

It adds further credence to a report in Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper that one of the attackers was tall and white with blue or green eyes and spoke with an English accent.

As well as the three missing Britons, some 10 Japanese, five Norwegians, four Filipinos and two Malaysians working at the plant, in remote desert near the Libyan border, are unaccounted for.

The group which has claimed responsibility for the outrage, calling themselves the Masked Brigade, warned in a statement of further attacks against any country backing France’s military intervention in neighbouring Mali, where Paris is trying to prevent an advance by Islamic extremists who have taken over the north of the country.

“We stress to our Muslim brothers the necessity to stay away from all the Western companies and complexes for their own safety, and especially the French ones,” the statement said.

In an interview on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Hague acknowledged that weapons coming out of Libya had contributed to a situation which terror network Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) had “taken advantage of”.

But he insisted the spread of weapons and extremism could have been even worse if Gaddafi’s regime had been allowed to survive for longer.

“If the Libyan conflict had gone on for longer, there would have been an even greater flow of weapons and an even greater opportunity for extremists to take hold in Libya,” Mr Hague told Today.

“While the Libyan situation may well have contributed to what has happened in Mali, I think the action that the Western world took in Libya, if anything, mitigated that.”

Mr Hague pointed to Somalia as a model for Western policy-makers, stressing the progress the country had made towards stability.

“What we do not want in these countries like Mali is that 20 years of failed state that preceded all of that in Somalia,” he added.

Mr Cameron yesterday 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 global 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,” said the Prime Minister.

“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. However, Mr Hague stressed that Britain would not be sucked into a new military conflict in the region.

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 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.

Others reported to have died were 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.

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.

BP employee Alan Wright described how he made a nerve-racking escape, hiding in an office before joining Algerian colleagues who cut their way through a perimeter fence and fled.

“If you have been captured, there’s pretty much no escape and it is going to take a miracle to get you out,” he told Sky News.

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