Family says hostage killed in Algeria was 'loving family man'

WASHINGTON - The family of a Houston man killed in a hostage standoff at a natural gas complex in Algeria described Victor Lynn Lovelady as a loving family man who did not believe he was in danger working in northern Africa.

Lovelady's brother and daughter spoke to the media from their northeast Houston home on Tuesday.

"He was such a family man. He loved his kids and his wife more than anything in the world. He sacrificed for them," said Mike Lovelady, the victim's brother.  "He did this trip over there for his family. This is what he wanted to do for his family."

Three U.S. citizens were killed in last week's hostage standoff, while seven Americans made it out safely, Obama administration officials said Monday.

The State Department confirmed that Victor Lovelady, originally from Nederland, Texas, and Gordon Lee Rowan were killed at the Ain Amenas field in the Sahara. U.S. officials identified Katy resident Frederick Buttaccio as the first death last week.

Victor Lovelady, 57, worked for ENGlobal from 1989 until October 2012, before he took a job working in the Ain Amenas gas plant.

"He made us feel like he was very safe and he felt safe.  That really bothers me now because if he felt safe, I'm sure he was blindsided and had no idea," said Erin Lovelady, the victim's daughter.

The family wants answers about how Victor Lovelady died.

"I want to know how my brother died. I just want to know how my brother died. They told us they don't think he suffered. I want to know that. That's closure for me," said Mike Lovelady.

Victor Lovelady was planning to retire at 60.

"There are no words (what he means to me). He really was everything. He would have done everything and anything for us," Erin Lovelady said. "My whole life he's always told me that good things happen to good people. And that I was a good person and good things are going to happen for me. He always told us that and that's what makes this so hard. Dad didn't deserve that."

A U.S. official had told The Associated Press earlier Monday that the FBI had recovered Victor Lovelady's and Rowan's bodies and notified their families. The official had no details on how the Americans died.

Militants who attacked Ain Amenas had offered to release Victor Lovelady and Rowan in exchange for the freedom of two prominent terror suspects jailed in the United States: Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind sheik convicted of plotting to blow up New York City landmarks and considered the spiritual leader of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist convicted of shooting at two U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration rejected the offer outright.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. was still working with Algeria's government to gain a fuller understanding of the attack and to enhance their counterterrorism cooperation in future.

"We extend our deepest condolences to their families and friends," she said in a statement. "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."

Last week's desert siege began Wednesday when Mali-based, al-Qaida-linked militants attempted to hijack two buses at the plant, were repelled, and then seized the gas refinery. They said the attack was retaliation for France's recent military intervention against Islamist rebels in neighboring Mali, but the captured militants told Algerian officials it took two months to plan.

Five Americans had been taken out of the country before Saturday's final assault by Algerian forces against the militants.

The U.S. official said the remaining two Americans survived the four-day crisis at an insecure oil rig at the facility. They were flown out to London on Saturday.

The State Department's Nuland confirmed that seven Americans made it out safely, but said she couldn't provide further details because of privacy considerations.

Algeria says 38 hostages of all nationalities and 29 militants died in the standoff. Five foreign workers remain unaccounted for.

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