Irishman held in Algeria is free: Dublin

17th January 2013, Comments 0 comments

An Irish passport holder taken hostage by Islamist kidnappers at a gas field in Algeria is no longer being held and is "safe and well", the Irish government said Thursday.

Stephen McFaul's family in Belfast in Northern Ireland said they were delighted that his ordeal was over, with his father saying: "The last 48 hours have been hell."

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said he was "greatly relieved" to hear that the 36-year-old was safe, following reports that many of the hostages had been killed in an assault by the Algerian army.

Although Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, its residents are entitled to hold both Irish and British passports. Media reports said McFaul was travelling on an Irish passport in Algeria.

McFaul's 13-year-old son, Dylan, told Sky News television: "I can't even explain the excitement. I can't wait til he gets home... I'm just going to say that he's never going back there, I'm not letting him go back."

The Irishman's father Christopher McFaul said his son was an electrical engineer with extensive experience in west Africa, and had been working as a supervisor on the remote In Amenas complex when it was attacked.

He was "delighted" to hear that his son was safe, he said.

But he added: "I feel sorry for the other hostages that are still there. We don't know what's happened to them, and the ones who have been killed -- I feel sorry for their families."

McFaul's mother Marie said her son had spoken to his wife Angela by telephone and told her he was being debriefed at a safe camp.

They were just waiting for him to call, she said, adding: "He'll have coped very well. He'll have put his business head on and just got on with it."

She said there would be a "a big celebration" that evening.

It was not immediately clear how McFaul made his way to freedom. An Irish foreign ministry spokesman said only that he "has made contact with his family and is understood to be safe and well and no longer a hostage".

The kidnappers claimed an army air strike killed 34 hostages and 15 Islamists, while the APS news agency said the Algerian army freed four foreign hostages, including two Britons, a Frenchman and a Kenyan, as well as 600 local workers.

Prime Minister Kenny paid tribute to all those involved in trying to resolve the crisis and said his thoughts were with the other hostages and their families.

© 2013 AFP

0 Comments To This Article