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Saharan siege death toll climbs past 80

Algerian bomb squads searched a gas refinery laced with mines on Monday, looking for more explosive traps a day after the discovery of more bodies throughout the site raised the toll from the terrorist siege well past 80.

Special forces from the Algerian military stormed the plant on Saturday to end the four-day siege, then the government began the painstaking work of finding and defusing the explosives planted in what government officials said was a plot by the Islamic extremists to blow up the complex and kill all their captives.

In a statement, the Masked Brigade, the group that claimed to have masterminded the takeover, warned of more such attacks against any country backing France's military intervention in neighbouring Mali, where the French are trying to stop an advance by Islamic extremists.

"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.

Algeria said after Saturday's assault by government forces that at least 32 extremists and 23 hostages were killed. On Sunday, the Algerian bomb squads found 25 more bodies, said a 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.David Plouffe, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said that al-Qaida and al-Qaida-affiliated groups remain a threat in North Africa and other parts of the world, and that the U.S. is determined to help other countries destroy those networks.

Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Plouffe said the tragedy in Algeria shows once again "that all across the globe countries are threatened by terrorists who will use civilians to try and advance their twisted and sick agenda."

The Canadian Press

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