Mali tops security council agenda

Braintree and Witham Times: The aftermath of the hostage crisis at the remote In Amenas gas facility in Algeria (AP) The aftermath of the hostage crisis at the remote In Amenas gas facility in Algeria (AP)

Security and defence chiefs will discuss increasing UK support for the French-led military operation in Mali after David Cameron vowed to show "iron resolve" in tackling Islamist terrorism in the aftermath of the deadly Algerian siege

The Prime Minister will chair a meeting of the National Security Council to consider what additional surveillance and transport help can be provided to the assault on rebels in the neighbouring country on top of two RAF C17 transport aircraft despatched last week.

Britain was "not seeking a combat role", he insisted on Monday, but The Times reported that units from all three forces had been placed on "high readiness" to deploy.

The stepping up of involvement was under review the day after the PM heralded what he said was a global "generational struggle" against al Qaida-inspired Islamist terrorism in North Africa.

He pledged to provide intelligence and counter-terrorism assets to help track down and dismantle the terror network responsible for last week's attack on an Algerian natural gas plant.

Six Britons are thought to be among 37 foreign workers who died at the remote desert facility at In Amenas - part-operated by BP - which was overrun by heavily-armed terrorists.

Some 29 of the hostage-takers died, while three were captured by Algerian troops during a special forces mission to end the four-day stand off.

Three of the Britons killed have been named as 46-year-old security expert Paul Morgan, systems supervisor Garry Barlow, 49, from Liverpool, and 59-year-old planning manager Kenneth Whiteside, from Glenrothes, Fife. Colombian BP executive Carlos Estrada, who lived in London, is also believed to have died.

Forensic experts from the UK, US and Norway are working with the Algerian authorities to formally identify a number of bodies found at the site, thought to include the three further Britons.

Mr Cameron cautioned that task could take "some time".

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