Belfast Telegraph

Hostage drama man flying home

Family of Belfast oil worker set for emotional reunion

By Claire McNeilly

The family of a Northern Ireland man who survived a horrific hostage ordeal in Algeria have said they won’t be happy until he is on home ground.

Father-of-two Stephen McFaul escaped from the clutches of al-Qaida-linked terrorists by running away after a Jeep in which he was travelling with his captors crashed.

The 36-year-old oil worker, who was strapped with explosives and held at a BP facility at In Amenas for two days, is expected back in the province today.

A spokesman for the family, who are from west Belfast, told the Belfast Telegraph that they were “nervously excited” about his homecoming.

“Spirits are good, but until they see Stephen in the flesh they are just |looking at the walls,” said the spokesman.

He was speaking as the BP employee with extensive experience in the |industry was preparing to meet officials from the Foreign Office in London before returning to Belfast.

Hopes that he could have been reunited with his family last night were dashed as snow caused mass disruption at airports across the UK.

Mr McFaul, who has two sons, Dylan (13) and four-year-old Jake, was the only worker from Northern Ireland among those taken hostage.

The spokesman said that he called his wife Angela on Thursday to tell her he was free, and that he was safe and uninjured.

His frightening ordeal began around 5am on Wednesday at a residential compound at the gas facility which had come under attack.

It is understood that he barricaded himself in a room with a number of his co-workers as militants began to storm the building.

From his safe haven he managed to text his family to say he could hear gun shots and he told them he was hiding under a bed to keep safe. He was able to communicate with his family for more than two hours, but their fears were heightened when all contact was broken.

When he later telephoned home and talked to his wife and mother Marie, it was to say that he had been taken hostage.

Details about what happened on Thursday remain scant, but we understand the militants were trying to leave the gasfield with their hostages in a convoy of five vehicles.

Reports suggest that Algerian army helicopters began firing on the base and on the convoy and it is believed that the vehicle in which Mr McFaul was travelling was the only one not badly damaged.

Explosives were strapped to some of the hostages, including Stephen, but despite that he somehow managed to escape in the chaos that ensued and was picked up by Algerian troops.

Last night it emerged that nearly 600 Algerians were freed along with dozens of foreign captives, but it |was still unclear how many of Mr |McFaul’s colleagues were dead or injured.

Belfast Telegraph

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