Algeria: 32 Militants Killed, with 23 Hostages

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ALGIERS, Algeria - - Algeria is defending its response to the hostage crisis at a natural gas complex in the Sahara desert.

Algerian forces twice assaulted the two areas where hundreds of hostages were being held by Islamist extremists -- first on Thursday, then on Saturday.

In the bloody finale, special forces stormed the complex, leaving at least 23 hostages dead and killing all 32 militants.

Algeria's Interior Ministry says the action was taken "to avoid a bloody turn of events." It says the terrorists first tried to flee with the hostages and then blow up the gas facilities.

The ministry says 685 Algerian and 107 foreigner workers were freed over the course of the four-day standoff.

President Barack Obama says the attack "is another reminder of the threat posed by al-Qaida and other violent extremist groups in North Africa." He says the U.S. stands ready to provide whatever assistance Algerian officials need in the aftermath of the attack.

French President Francois Hollande says Algeria's tough tactics were "the most adapted response to the crisis."

Meanwhile in New York, the U.N. Security Council condemned the terrorist attack, saying all perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of such "reprehensible acts" must be brought to justice.