This April 19, 2005, file photo shows the Ain Amenas gas field in Algeria, where Islamist militants raided and took hostages Jan. 16. Kjetil Alsvik, AP
Jabeen Bhatti, Special for USA TODAY
The death toll from the bloody terrorist siege at a natural gas plant in Algeria climbed to at least 81 on Sunday as the country's forces searching the refinery for explosives found dozens more bodies, many so badly disfigured they could not immediately be identified, a security official said.
Algerian special forces stormed the plant on Saturday to end the four-day siege, moving in to thwart what government officials said was a plot by the Islamist militants to blow up the complex and kill all their hostages with mines sown throughout the site.
The government said after the assault that at least 32 extremists and 23 hostages were killed. Then, on Sunday, Algerian bomb squads sent in to blow up or defuse the explosives found 25 bodies, said the security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
"These bodies are difficult to identify. They could be the bodies of foreign hostages or Algerians or terrorists," the official said.
In addition, a wounded Romanian who had been evacuated died, raising the overall death toll to at least 81.
Algerian spokesman Mohamed Said said Sunday that he expects the death toll to rise.
"I am very concerned that this preliminary death toll will be, unfortunately, revised upwards in the coming hours," he said.
Special forces continue to secure the facility and look for more victims, Said added.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday three Britons were killed and another three are believed dead, as is a British resident.
"Now, of course, people will ask questions about the Algerian response to these events, but I would just say that the responsibility for these deaths lies squarely with the terrorists who launched a vicious and cowardly attack," Cameron said.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said his country is awaiting word on five missing workers.
"We have to face the fact that Norwegian lives might have been lost," he said. "But we also have to feel relief that (eight) have been already saved."
One American, Frederick Buttaccio of Texas, was confirmed dead Friday. The Algerian government reported that 685 Algerian and 107 foreigner workers were freed during the four-day standoff.
In the final assault Saturday, the remaining band of militants killed seven hostages before 11 of them were in turn cut down by the special forces, Algeria's state news agency said. The military also said it confiscated heavy machine guns, rocket launchers, missiles and grenades attached to suicide belts.
The Algerian government defended its actions against the al-Qaeda-linked group who call themselves "Signers in Blood."
"The terrorists were determined to be successful in their operation; they had planned to blow up the gas complex and execute all the hostages," Said said, citing the "sophisticated arsenal" of weapons recovered.
The State Department issued a travel warning Saturday night for Americans in or traveling to Algeria, citing credible threats of the kidnapping of Western nationals. The department also authorized the departure from Algeria of staff members' families if they choose to leave.
Militants attacked the Ain Amenas gas plant early Wednesday after initially assaulting a bus with facility workers en route to the local airport.
The terrorists, made up of at least six nationalities, then retreated to two different sections in the facility. Algerian special forces began an assault on the facility to free the hostages Thursday, in a move that took Western nations by surprise because they weren't consulted beforehand.
Algeria has been fighting a war against militants for two decades and refuses to negotiate with terrorists.
After Saturday's assault, French President Francois Hollande gave his backing to Algeria's tough tactics, saying they were "the most adapted response to the crisis."
"There could be no negotiations" with terrorists, the French media quoted him as saying in the central French city of Tulle.