Washington: The US on Tuesday hinted that al Qaeda linked terrorists killed the hostages, including three Americans, in Algeria, saying the casualties would have been much larger if they had succeeded to blow up the oil facility.
"The blame for this tragedy rests with the terrorists who carried it out, and the United States condemns those actions in the strongest possible terms," White House Press Secretary jay Carney told reporters.
"The Algerians have said, as you know, that these attackers intended to kill all of the hostages, and blow up the facility," he said, adding that outcome would have made the situation even more tragic.
"We are in touch with, as we have been, we`ll continue to be in touch with, the government of Algeria to gain a fuller picture of what happened, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that the blame for this lies with the terrorists," he said.
This attack, he said, is another reminder of the threat posed by al Qaeda and other violent extremist groups.
"We will remain vigilant against that threat, and we`ll continue to work closely with all of our partners in the region to combat it," he said. "We will remain in close touch with the government of Algeria to gain a fuller understanding of what took place so that we can work together to prevent tragedies like this in the future."
Carney said President Barack Obama was being briefed on the issue frequently even during his inaugural ceremonies.
"He was updated on it throughout the last several days. I don`t have a specific mode of how he was updated on it by his national security team, but he has been very on top of it," he said in response to a question.
Carney acknowledged that al Qaeda, with its core based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, continues to pose threat to the US.
"There is no question that after more than a decade of war, we are entering a new phase; we are entering a new time in our effort to combat al-Qaeda and its affiliates, like- minded extremists who threaten the United States, threaten our allies," he said.
"But the president is very clear-eyed and understanding of the fact that that threat remains. Even as we have done great damage to al-Qaeda central, to the core al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we are dealing with al Qaeda affiliates in different parts of the region and the world," he said.
"And we will continue to have to deal with them, working with our partners to make sure that those threats are contained and that we continue the president`s over-arching goal when it comes to al Qaeda, which is its disruption, dismantlement and ultimate defeat," Carney said.
"The administration has made great progress, thanks to the remarkable work of our armed services, the remarkable work of our intelligence services. But that effort is not done, and we cannot be anything but vigilant in pursuit of that effort," he said in response to a question.
"The president will continue to pursue a strategy that protects the country, protects the American people, protects our men and women overseas, and do so in a way that is consistent with our values," he added.