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Algeria hostage-takers threaten more attacks - SITE

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DUBAI, Jan 21 (Reuters) - The Mulathameen Brigade that claimed the mass hostage-taking in Algeria threatened to carry out more attacks unless Western powers ended what it called an assault on Muslims in neighbouring Mali, according to the SITE monitoring service.

In a statement on Monday, the al Qaeda linked group, whose name means "The Masked Ones", said the hostage-takers had offered negotiations on freeing the captives seized at a gas plant in Algeria but the Algerian authorities used military force, SITE reported.

The statement was published by the Mauritania-based Nouakchott News Agency, according to SITE, which tracks statements by militants.

The Brigade said it would attempt further such attacks if there was no halt to Western military involvement in northern Mali, which militant groups call Azawad and where French forces are fighting to end control by Islamist groups.

"We promise all the countries that participated in the Crusader campaign against the Azawad region that we will carry out more operations if they do not reverse their decision," the statement said.

The hostage death toll from the four-day siege at the gas plant deep in the Sahara that was full of international and Algerian workers has risen to almost 60.

The fighters swooped out of the desert and seized the base on Wednesday, capturing a plant that produces 10 percent of Algeria's natural gas exports, and residential barracks nearby. They demanded an end to French air strikes against Islamist fighters in Mali that had begun five days earlier.

"We opened the door for negotiations with the Westerners and the Algerians, and granted them safety from the beginning of the operation, but one of the senior (Algerian) intelligence officials confirmed to us in a phone call that they will destroy the place with everyone in it," SITE quoted the statement as saying.

(Reporting by William Maclean; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130121/algeria-hostage-takers-threaten-more-attacks-site