THE death toll from the bloody terrorist siege at a natural gas plant in the Sahara has climbed to at least 81.
Algerian forces searching the complex for explosives found dozens more bodies, many so badly disfigured they could not immediately be identified.
And it has also been revealed that up to five of the militants who took part in the attack on the plant were employees there, raising fears of an inside job or infiltration by extremists.
Algerian special forces stormed the facility on Saturday ending the four-day siege of the remote desert refinery, and the government said then that 32 militants and 23 hostages were killed, but that the death toll was likely to rise.
The 25 bodies found by bomb squads yesterday were so badly disfigured that it was difficult to tell whether they were hostages or attackers, said an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation and said those casualties were not official yet . Escape
Meanwhile, a survivor of the Algerian hostage crisis told yesterday how he fled the besieged BP Algerian gas complex in something like a scene from the 'Great Escape' after hiding from the terrorists for more than a day.
Alan Wright, a 37-year-old health and safety adviser, relived a terrifying 24 hours where he and colleagues hid in an office hearing gunshots all around them.
He described how the terrorists disguised themselves to look like the site's security staff and how he eventually made a break for freedom into the desert after hearing the "first twang" of some Algerian colleagues cutting open a security fence.
He also feared he had made the "worst mistake of his life" when he thought the Algerian soldiers he and the other escapees came across were also terrorists.
And he spoke to his wife on a satellite phone while hiding from his attackers, but couldn't bring himself to speak to his two young daughters as he didn't want such a horrific experience to be the last words they heard from him.
The militants came from six countries and were armed to cause maximum destruction. They mined the Ain Amenas refinery – which the Algerian state runs along with BP and Norway's Statoil – said Algerian Communications Minister Mohamed Said.
The kidnappers "had decided to succeed in the operation as planned, to blow up the gas complex and kill all the hostages," he said in a state radio interview.
In addition to the bodies found at the site yesterday, a wounded Romanian who had been evacuated from the site died, raising the overall death toll to at least 81.
The Masked Brigade, founded by Algerian militant Moktar Belmoktar, claimed responsibility for the attack. Belmoktar claimed the attack in the name of al-Qa'ida, according to the text from a video the Mauritania-based internet site, Sahara Media, said it had obtained. The site sometimes carries messages of jihadists.
He said that countering the rise of al-Qa'ida affiliated groups in the Sahel region will require an "iron resolve" and greater military, diplomatic and economic engagement with the region.
He spoke as it was confirmed six British citizens died after extremists took scores of hostages at a gas plant in eastern Algeria.
France last night called the hostage-taking "an act of war".
Some of the dead were "executed" by their captors as Algerian forces stormed the In Amenas complex, Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed.
One witness described how a Briton was forced to call out to colleagues to lure them out of hiding.
He said they were then shot dead by their captors.
Sources have confirmed that 28 British nationals and one UK resident were involved in the incident, which began last Wednesday. All 22 British survivors were back in the UK yesterday. Of the remaining six, three have been confirmed dead, and three are missing, presumed dead.
(©Daily Telegraph, London)