Grim task of identifying Algeria hostage crisis victims begins in Italy

(CBS News) In Italy, the grim work begins of identifying the 32 people who were killed after al Qaeda-linked militants seized a natural gas complex in the Sahara Desert. Some of the victims -- from eight different countries -- are so disfigured they will have to be identified using DNA.

U.S. officials confirmed Monday that three American citizens -- Victor Lovelady, Gordon Rowan and Frederick Buttaccio -- died and seven others escaped last week's drama in North Africa.

The Algerian prime minister said the attackers came from at least seven countries, including Canada, and defended the operation against them.

"Terrorists cannot be harbored in Algeria and cannot be tolerated in Algeria," Abdelmalek Sellal said in a televised address.

The suspected Canadanian attacker is of particular interest, says CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former assistant FBI director, because it could mean the terrorist group has a successful online recruiting program. Miller points out that it could also mean the militants were Algerian nationals who went to Canada, were granted asylum, and were then recruited by the group.

Miller says the intelligence community will be focusing now on the basics of who the attackers were, "what is their network, what are their finances, what are their emails, what are their communications? They're scrambling right now to figure out ... [if there is] something back here on the other side that needs to be looked at more closely?"

Watch John Miller's full "CTM" analysis in the video below.

The alleged leader of the so-called "Masked Brigade" posted an online video in which he said the men he sent on the operation in Algeria had been willing to negotiate, or to die.

"They pledged before God to achieve victory and restore pride or attain martyrdom and paradise," Moktar Belmoktar said in the video released Monday.

Miller says that, in spite of the fact that the operation ended up being "a stunning defeat" for the terror group, "they don't look at it that way. They're going to look at it that their people have gone to martyrdom, they're going to get their reward in heaven, they're now on the map because they got publicity and that will affect places where they have a footprint. That could be Libya, Niger, Mali, Chad, you know, anywhere in the region."

American victim Victor Lovelady, of Nederland, Texas, near Houston, had only been at the gas plant 10 days, according to his daughter Erin Lovelady.

"We asked him all the time, 'Do you feel safe? Do you feel safe? If you don't feel safe you don't have to go.' And he goes, 'Ah I feel so, nothing's happened there in so long and my friends have been doing it for so long and it's fine there, and it's so safe, we have protection.'"

Algerian TV said an amateur video shows some of the attackers inside the gas plant, and the body of a victim on the ground.

Many of those who survived only did so by their own initiative -- and luck. Tony Grisedale from Great Britain simply hid. "I just went back to the accommodation, locked the door, battened down the shutters, knocked the lights off and kept quiet," he said.

Joseph Balmaceda, from the Philippines, got caught. He said the militants used he and other hostages "as human shields ... we were told to raise our hands."

Algerian officials say the militants appear to have had help from workers inside the plant.

At least three of the attackers were captured alive, including the man who is believed to have led the assault. And there are plenty more where those came from in the new emerging vault of terrorism right across North Africa.

So does this attack mean a new threat for the U.S.?

"We have experience (in the U.S.) where groups that were located overseas, that have no footprint here, have made threats to attack places like Washington, New York, and then in the case of the truck bomb in Times Square, we've seen those threats come true," explains Miller on "CTM."

"The Internet has become an amazing mobilizer to bring people together in that world," adds Miller.

Watch Allen Pizzey's full report in the video above.

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