More than 20 Filipino hostages in Algeria

Posted at 01/18/2013 10:57 AM | Updated as of 01/18/2013 2:14 PM

MANILA - The Philippine government has received reports that more than 20 of its nationals were among the foreign hostages seized by Islamist gunmen in Algeria, a foreign department spokesman said Friday.

Undersecretary Raul Hernandez said a Filipino hostage, along with a Japanese national, had escaped the area before Algerian forces launched a rescue operation, although he had suffered slight injuries.

"He is now on the way to Algiers for treatment," Hernandez said, declining to give details.

Officials were checking if any of the Filipinos were among the dead and wounded after the Algerian military launched a rescue operation that had reportedly left several hostages dead, he said.

The gunmen seized the gas plant in the Algerian desert on Wednesday, taking numerous foreigners hostage. Algerian forces launched an operation against the gunmen the next day that reportedly left several hostages dead.

Hernandez said that earlier a brother and a wife of two Filipino workers had separately called the department to say that their relatives and 19 other Filipino co-workers had been in the gas field at the time.

"The Algerians admitted that there were some deaths and injuries on the side of the hostages following the operation undertaken by the Algerian military forces but no details were released," he added.

Manila was still trying to determine how many Filipinos were in the plant, a task that was complicated by the many foreign companies and contractors operating in the area, he said.

About nine million Filipinos work around the world, as seamen, labourers, domestic helpers and in many other fields, earning more than they could in their poverty-stricken home country.

The money they send home is a major pillar of the local economy, but they are often exposed to danger overseas and their welfare is a thorny issue in the Philippines.

© 1994-2012 Agence France-Presse