Pinoy escapes from captors in Algeria

Posted at 01/18/13 8:05 AM

MANILA, Philippines – One of the Filipinos trapped in an Algerian gas complex, which was raided by Islamist kidnappers, managed to escape, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Raul Hernandez said on Friday.

Hernandez said the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli, Libya received information from the Japanese embassy that a Filipino managed to escape before the Algerian military conducted a raid on the In Amenas gas complex.

Hernandez said the Filipino was injured.

He said a Japanese company at the gas field, Japan Gas Corp., has Filipino workers.

He said at least 15 Filipinos were trapped in the complex, citing a report the DFA received from a sibling of one of the trapped Filipinos.

"Tumawag daw sa kanya ang kanyang kapatid at iyan ang sinabing nandoon daw sila sa loob at hindi sila makaalis. Pero that was last Wednesday. Hindi pa ho maberipika at hindi pa ma-confirm ng embahada sa Tropili iyan," Hernandez said.

Algeria is home to at least 3,400 Filipino workers, Hernandez said. Most of these Filipinos are highly skilled laborers working for multinational companies

Military raid

Algerian troops Thursday launched strikes on a gas complex where Islamists are holding dozens of foreigners to avenge a French-led offensive in Mali, as several hostages reportedly fled their captors.

Algiers confirmed several captives had been killed or wounded. The kidnappers claimed an air and ground assault on the complex had left 34 hostages dead.

The Islamists said 15 of their number were also killed. A foreign diplomat in Algiers confirmed the rescue mission "did not go too well for the hostages."

Local officials in the southeastern region of Illizi had said the army's raid was over late Thursday, but later clarified that only the residential area, where the majority of the hostages were being held, had been secured, saying the army was still surrounding the gas facility itself.

Abu Al-Baraa, one of those who led the Islamist militant attack, earlier confirmed there were hostages from several countries -- Austria, Norway, France, the United States, Britain, Romania, Colombia, Thailand, the Philippines, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, and Germany.

In a recent development, Mauritanian news agency ANI, which often carries reliable reports from groups linked to Al-Qaeda, reported that Al-Baraa was among those who were killed in the attack.

According to the Mauritanian news site Al-Akhbar, Baraa was "one of the most important chiefs of the Mokhtar Belmokhtar brigade."
Veteran Islamist fighter Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a one-eyed Algerian jihadist with Al-Qaeda ties, has claimed responsibility for launching the attack.

Dubbed "The Uncatchable" by French intelligence and "Mister Marlboro" for his illicit cigarette smuggling, Belmokhtar was until recently one of the leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Al-Akbar said Baraa was also "probably of Algerian nationality," and said he was born in the late 1970s and became a member of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).

The same site said he had helped to infiltrate armed Islamists into northern Mali. – with Agence France-Presse