Hostage's family says Algerian army attacked hostage jeeps

BELFAST Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:21am IST

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BELFAST (Reuters) - A hostage who escaped unharmed from Islamist militants in Algeria on Thursday said the Algerian army bombed four jeeps carrying fellow captives and probably killed many of them, his brother told Reuters.

Irishman Stephen McFaul, who was among dozens of Western and local captives seized by militants at an Algerian natural gas plant on Wednesday, told his family that he survived because he was on the only one of five jeeps not hit by Algerian bombs, according to his brother Brian.

"They were moving five jeep-loads of hostages from one part of the compound. At that stage they were intercepted by the Algerian army. The army bombed four out of five of the trucks and four of them were destroyed," Brian McFaul said.

"The truck my brother was in crashed and at that stage Stephen was able to make a break for his freedom," he said. "He presumed everyone else in the other trucks was killed."

Brian McFaul said he did not speak to Stephen directly, but got an account from Stephen's wife Angela after she spoke to him. The hostages had their mouths taped and explosives hung from around their necks, McFaul added.

Thirty hostages and at least 11 Islamist militants were killed on Thursday when Algerian forces stormed the desert gas plant in a bid to free many dozens of captives, an Algerian security source said.

Western governments were unhappy at having been kept in the dark by Algeria before the raid and its bloody result.

Two Japanese, two Britons and a French national were among at least seven foreigners killed, the source told Reuters. Eight of the dead hostages were Algerian. The nationalities of the rest, along with perhaps dozens more who escaped, were unclear. (Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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