US Defense Secy Leon Panetta
US Defense Secy Leon Panetta Reuters

The terrorist attack in Algeria, which resulted in the death of three Americans and 34 other hostages, highlights that al Qaeda is “committed to creating terror" worldwide and that America has "got to fight back," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday.

“I’m glad we were able to get some rescued, but we did lose three Americans,” Panetta told a small group of reporters Monday, according to The Hill. “That just tells us al Qaeda is committed to creating terror wherever they are, and we’ve got to fight back.”

Seven U.S. citizens survived the attack. A man from Colorado man survived by hiding from the terrorists for two and a half days before escaping to a nearby Algerian military base.

Panetta said that while U.S. forces have made key gains against the terror group in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere, it is seeking new footholds in places like Mali, where the United States has aided a French campaign against Islamist terrorists.

“We have slowed the primary cancer,” he said, referring to the terror group, “but we know that the cancer has also metastasized to other parts of the global body.”

The hostage crisis began Wednesday when an offshoot of al Qaeda's North African affiliate, the Islamic Maghreb, stormed a remote natural-gas facility near the Libyan border.

The three American hostages killed when Algerian forces intervened were identified Monday by the State Department as Victor Lynn Lovelady, Gordon Lee Rowan and Frederick Buttaccio.

"We extend our deepest condolences to their families and friends," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement. "Out of respect for the families' privacy, we have no further comment. We are also aware of seven U.S. citizens who survived the attack. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further information to provide.

"As the president said, the blame for this tragedy rests with the terrorists who carried it out, and the United States condemns their actions in the strongest possible terms. We will continue to work closely with the government of Algeria to gain a fuller understanding of the terrorist attack of last week and how we can work together moving forward to combat such threats in the future."

The White House has thus far refrained from criticizing Algeria, a key counterterrorism ally.

"The blame for this tragedy rests with the terrorists who carried it out, and the United States condemns their actions in the strongest possible terms," Obama said in a statement Saturday. "We have been in constant contact with Algerian officials and stand ready to provide whatever assistance they need in the aftermath of this attack."

Algeria's prime minister said the terror attack was orchestrated by a Canadian citizen and the attackers wore Algerian military uniforms and had cohorts working inside the plant.

"I cannot find words to adequately describe my feelings over this heinous and cowardly act," Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said.

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