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Algerian forces ‘bombed hostage jeep convoy'

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-01-18

The first details about the bloody and chaotic Algerian operation to reclaim a gas plant seized by Islamist militants, and in which several hostages were killed, began emerging from hostages on Friday.

Terrorised hostages who were freed or escaped from a seized gas plant in southeast Algeria have begun giving the first harrowing accounts of the apparently bloody and confused assault by Algerian security forces on the facility.

Foreign nationals from Ireland and Norway told family members by phone how they survived the ordeal, describing scenes that appear to show that Algerian forces may have acted rashly.

With no prior notice to the governments of the citizens involved, Algerian forces began the assault Thursday after the hostages asked for safe passage from the country with the hostages.

Stephen McFaul, an electrical engineer from west Belfast, told his family he narrowly escaped death, first when bound and gagged by the gunmen who fastened explosives around the hostages’ necks and then on Thursday when he was in a convoy of five vehicles driving across the complex.

“(The gunmen) were moving five jeeploads of hostages from one part of the compound,” his brother Brian McFaul told Reuters. “At that stage, they were intercepted by the Algerian army,” he said.

'Army bombed convoy'

“The army bombed four out of five of the trucks and four of them were destroyed ... He presumed everyone else in the other trucks was killed ... The truck my brother was in crashed and at that stage Stephen was able to make a break for freedom.”

McFaul said it was unclear whether the vehicles had been struck by missiles fired from helicopters or by ground forces.

His testimony appeared to confirm that of a French hostage inside the plant, who told FRANCE 24 by telephone on Wednesday night that the militants had strapped belts with explosives to the captives.

A 58-year-old Norwegian engineer who was rescued and taken to a nearby Algerian military camp told his wife how militants attacked a bus Wednesday before being fended off by a military escort.

“Bullets were flying over their heads as they hid on the floor of the bus,” his wife Vigdis Sletten told The Associated Press by telephone. Her husband and the other bus passengers climbed out of a window and were transported to a nearby military camp.

Despite these early accounts, none of the governments involved have as yet confirmed or commented on the hostages experiences.
 

Date created : 2013-01-18

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