Algeria: New front in war on terrorism

(CBS News) The hostage crisis in Algeria is over, but the death toll is now more than 80, and dozens are missing.

The numbers themselves, big as they are, are changing and don't tell the full story, Mark Phillips reports. The dead hostages identified so far from six countries include one from the United States, three from the Philippines, and three from Britain with three more missing. In Japan and Norway, they're expecting further bad news as well.

The four-day siege marked a major battle along the new front in the war against Islamist terrorism. The Algerians had to launch two assaults to finally subdue a large -- and by the look of the weapons displayed afterward, a well-equipped -- group of kidnappers.

In the end, the Algerians said they had to move in because they feared the attackers were going to blow up the gas facility and the rest of the hostages they were holding.

The nationalities of some of the dead are still to be confirmed, the bodies too mutilated to be identified.

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Those who survived have been speaking of the hell they had lived through.

Alan Wright, from Scotland, had been hiding in an office and managed to get a satellite phone call out to his family.

"I thought, I don't want my last ever words to be on a crackly satellite phone telling a lie -- you know, saying that you're OK when you're far from OK," Wright told reporters.

Wright managed to get away with a group of Algerian hostages, but it wasn't an easy decision. "You don't know what's out there," he said. "And we know that the terrorists are dressed the same as the security forces. It was a huge decision -- do you stay or do you go?"

The kidnappers, who had identified themselves as the Masked Brigade and on a website, said they were retaliating for the French-led counterterrorism action taking place in next-door Mali -- and they have vowed further attacks.

The equipment, the uniforms, the fact the Algerians say the kidnappers had maps of the facility and possibly had planted some people on the inside as employees, these are all signs the Islamist militants in North Africa are organized and resourceful. The French intervention in Mali have been given as the motivation for the attack, but there are indications it has been planned for some time, and that this attack will not be the last.

Weapons recovered from Islamist militants following the four-day siege of an Algerian gas complex.
CBS News

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