By John Newland, Staff Writer, NBC News
Two Islamist militants found dead at the gas plant in Algeria where dozens of Western workers were taken hostage were Canadian, an Algerian security source told Reuters Monday, as the total death toll from the bloody siege hit at least 80.
The claim came as dramatic stories began to emerge from hostages who escaped the bloody end to the siege at the Tiguentourine plant near In Amenas.
The Algerian security source told Reuters that documents found on the bodies of the two militants had identified them as Canadians.
The militants had previously been described to reporters as a mix of Arabs, Africans and others from outside Africa.
The report could not be immediately confirmed, but if true it highlights the wider threat from al-Qaida and other similar groups.
Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it was "aware of reports that Canadians may have been involved in the hostage-taking in Algeria."
"We are pursuing all appropriate channels to seek further information and are in close contact with Algerian authorities," the statement added. "Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms this deplorable and cowardly attack and all terrorist groups which seek to create and perpetuate insecurity in the Sahel countries of West Africa."
One American, three Britons and two Romanians have been confirmed dead by their home countries and Reuters, citing Japanese government sources, reported that at least nine Japanese nationals also had been killed. An Algerian security source also told Reuters that at least one Frenchman had died.
NBC News partner ITV News reported Monday that the bodies of 25 more hostages had been found inside the facility by Algerian troops.