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“They understand the threat from terrorism better, probably, than a lot of other countries,” he said of Algeria. “And they’ve developed the capability to try to deal with terrorism.”

He added that every country in the region has its own approach to dealing with terrorism.

“And I’m not going to make judgments about what’s good or bad. What I care about is that they do everything they can to make sure that [al Qaeda] does not establish a base of operations in that area. That’s what I care about,” Mr. Panetta said.

An independent Algerian TV station reported Sunday that the military had captured five of the hostage-takers and that three more were still at large.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.