The Irishman who was among those reportedly being held hostage at the In Amenas oil-field in Algeria on Wednesday is said to be out of harm’s way now and “safe and well.”
The engineer said he saw four jeeps full of hostages blown up by Algerian troops, the Irish Times reports. He also says that while in capivity, he had explosives tied around his neck.
The Irishman, who has been identified as West Belfast native Stephen McFaul, has made contact with his family since the incident, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland.
According to reports, McFaul was able to get in contact with his family twice before escaping the situation. However, when his family in Belfast hadn’t heard from him on Wednesday, they grew concerned.
On Wednesday, his family issued a statement through West Belfast MP Paul Maskey, in which they said they were very concerned about his welfare and were looking for him to be set free unharmed.
Just under three hours later, McFaul made contact again with his family letting them know he had escaped and was safe and well. Reports as to how he came to be free - whether the hostages let him go or if he escaped - are not clear as of yet.
The Irish Independent, however, reports that McFaul was one of 25 foreign hostages who escaped while six others were killed on Thursday in the midst of Algerian forces launching an operation to free them at a remote desert gas plant, Algerian sources said.
Information regarding the developments at the In Amenas oil field site in Algeria have been slow to come by.
Before McFaul was able to make contact with his family letting them know he was safe, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was told by his Algerian counterpart Mourad Medelci that McFaul was not among a number of foreign captives who escaped the gas field complex.
However, Tanaiste Gilmore was of course relieved to find out later that McFaul was safe. "I am extremely thankful and relieved to learn that the Irish national who was a hostage in Algeria has made contact with his family and is safe.”
"I spoke with his family yesterday, and I know how relieved they will be that he is well after his ordeal.”
"This is the news that we all wanted to hear. At the same time, my thoughts are with the other oil-field workers who are caught up in this terrible situation and with their families who are also waiting for news at this difficult time.”
"We continue to liaise with the Algerian authorities and with the authorities of the other countries affected by this incident.”
On Thursday evening, Taoiseach Enda Kenny offered a statement about the situation: “I would like to pay tribute to all those who have been involved in the effort to resolve this crisis and my thoughts are with the other oil-field workers and their families who have found themselves at the centre of this traumatic situation.”
The UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron has been in contact with French President Francois Hollande and US President Barack Obama about the still developing situation, as each nation has hostages at the Algerian oil field.
The hostage situation began in the early hours of Wednesday morning at In Amenas, at a joint-venture operated oil-field, owned in part by oil company BP. McFaul was one of a number of foreign workers at the site, and had been travelling on an Irish passport.
The Journal reports that former AQIM leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar has claimed responsibility for the attack. The militants said they seized the hostages, who were known to include US, French, British, Irish, Norwegian and Japanese citizens, in retaliation for the French military intervention in northern Mali.
In response, Algerian militants surrounded the area on Thursday to combat the kidnappers. The situation is still ongoing, and many public officials are reluctant to speak either due to lack of information or the “volatile” nature of the incident.