At least two Pinoys killed in Algeria hostage crisis — report
At least two Filipinos were killed in the Algeria hostage crisis that ended on Friday, The Times news site said.
Pinoy escapes al-Qaeda-linked hostage takers in Algeria. The In Amenas gas field, jointly ran by British oil giant BP, Norway's Statoil and state-run Algerian energy firm Sonatrach, in eastern Algeria is seen in this undated photo. Algerian troops attacked al-Qaeda-linked militants holding foreign hostages at the gas field on Thursday killing 11 hostage-takers as well as 30 hostages. Their captives included Americans, French, British, Japanese, Filipinos and Algerians. AFP/Statoil /Kjetil Alsvik
"Algerian state TV reported that two Britons and two Filipinos were killed when Algerian troops stormed in," the report said.
However, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday said it cannot confirm yet if there were indeed Filipinos among those killed in the hostage crisis in a gas field in Algeria.
The DFA did confirm that an injured Filipino escaped the hostage-taking incident and was now headed to the country's capital, Algiers, for treatment.
In a text message, DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said, "Our embassy received info from the Japanese Embassy in Tripoli that a Filipino worker was able to escape together with a Japanese national from the gas field before the military operation started."
Earlier on GMA Network's "News To Go" program, Hernandez told program host Kara David that the DFA and the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli have not yet talked to the Filipino escapee.
Hernandez confirmed that they already had the name of the Filipino escapee but could not reveal it as they have not yet informed the family, a standard operating procedure.
The siege that began earlier this week ended on Friday after Algerian forces stormed a desert gas complex to free hundreds of hostages.
However, 30 hostages were killed in the assault, along with at least 11 of their Islamist captors, an Algerian security source told the Reuters news agency.
The group that identified itself as the "Blood Battalion" claimed to have dozens of guerrillas at the hostage-taking site—the gas installation that was both the home and workplace dozens of foreign gas industry workers.
The gas field—In Amenas—is jointly operated by British oil giant BP, Norway's Statoil and state-run Algerian energy firm Sonatrach.
BP earlier said they did not have Filipino employees working in the gas field but was unsure whether their subcontractors are employing any Filipinos.
In the text message, the DFA said, "We have also received a report from our embassy in London that around 34 Filipinos working with different companies in the gas field are being evacuated by chartered plane to London via Parma, Italy. One of them sustained a gunshot wound."
The DFA also said "two sources in the Philippines" managed to get in touch with their hostaged relatives working in the gas field.
"One said her brother together with 15 other Filipinos are inside the gas facility. The other source said her husband and four other Filipinos are working there," Hernandez said.
He said the Philippine embassy is coordinating with other embassies and consulates to determine the actual number of Filipino victims in the incident and their situation.
Hernandez emphasized that the violence was only concentrated in the gas field and that no other Filipinos in Algeria are affected.
There are 3,400 Filipinos in Algeria, he said.
The Islamist group reportedly raided the gas field and attacked a bus with employees. They then allegedly went to the living quarters and held the workers there captive.
France 24 reported that a hostage told them that they were made to wear explosive belts and that the hostage takers were threatening to blow up the gas field.
Algerian officials said the overall commander of the hostage-taking operation was Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a veteran of Afghanistan in the 1980s and Algeria's bloody civil war of the 1990s.
The hostage-taking was done in reprisal for the military intervention of France in Algeria's neighboring country Mali to fight off al-Qaeda.
The group was demanding the immediate release of 100 Islamists held captive in Algeria for the lives of their Western hostages based on an unidentified worker's tip to Agence France-Presse.
"The assailants have demanded that these Islamists be taken to northern Mali," the unidentified tipster told AFP in a phone conversation.
Algeria helped France in the skirmish by opening up its airspace to the French allowing them to conduct strategic airstrikes and reconnaisance.
The group told Mauritian media earlier that the hostage taking was payback for France's assault on Islamists in Mali made possible through Algeria's cooperation.
“Algeria was chosen for this operation to teach (President Abdelaziz) Bouteflika that we will never accept the humiliation of the Algerian people's honor... by opening Algerian airspace to French planes,” it said. —VVP/KG, GMA News