Algeria hostage Belfast man Stephen McFaul due home

Stephen McFaul Stephen McFaul phoned his family to tell them he was free

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A spokesperson for the family of Stephen McFaul have described his mood as "bright and together and nervously excited" about returning home.

The 36-year-old is expected to arrive back in Northern Ireland on Friday or Saturday.

The oil worker, who holds an Irish passport, was held hostage at a BP facility in Algeria for two days, along with other foreign nationals.

He managed to escape on Thursday after his captors' jeep crashed.

It has emerged that at one stage explosives were place around his neck by his captors.

The spokesperson said Stephen had called his family on Friday morning and was "sad for his colleagues who remain caught up in the crisis".

He added that the Belfast man was on a flight specially chartered by his employer and was due in London later on Friday.

Stephen will then meet officials from the Foreign Office before returning to Belfast.

Timeline: Stephen McFaul's ordeal

5am, 16 Jan: Stephen McFaul calls his wife from the residential compound at the gas facility, to say the compound is under attack and he can hear gunfire. He locks himself in a room with two other colleagues.

Stephen texts his family and says he can hear gunfire and is hiding under a bed to try to keep safe. He continues to send texts for over two hours, until contact is lost.

9am, 16 Jan: In phone calls to his wife and mother, he says he has been taken hostage. The militants, he says, have demands that the hostages be exchanged for Al Qaeda prisoners in Mali and are demanding the Algerian army move away from the camp. Contact then ends.

17 Jan: Details are sketchy, but according to various news agency reports the militants attempt to leave the gas facility with their hostages.

Midday: A news agency reports that Algerian army helicopters are firing on the base.

It is believed that only one of the five vehicles carrying hostages and their captors is not badly damaged.

Stephen McFaul is on board that vehicle and in the chaos he manages to escape and is picked up by the Algerian army.

2.30pm: Stephen McFaul manages to call his wife to tell her he is safe.

Mr McFaul was the only worker from Northern Ireland among those taken hostage.

His 13-year-old son Dylan has said he could not wait to give his father "a big hug".

On Thursday, Brian McFaul said his brother phoned his wife, Angela, as soon as he was released to tell her he was safe and that he had been taken to a secure location.

"A safe camp, he called it," said Mr McFaul.

"Angela said when she was talking to him he said he was fine, he was OK, he was safe and unharmed.

Freedom

"In the past 48 hours, the whole family has just pulled together, both sides of it.

"You were constantly watching news and hoping that the next news you got was going to be good news.

"Then when we heard earlier on that there was a large number of the hostages killed, and there was no mention of the Irish citizen being alive, then we were sort of expecting the worst."

Mr McFaul said they had learned of his brother's freedom when his wife called.

"She said: 'Stephen's free, he's going to phone the house here, now'."

He said Stephen's 13-year-old son Dylan was sitting with them throughout.

"He found it hard to sleep and was worrying. The poor child went through a lot for somebody his age for the past 48 hours," he said.

Brian McFaul said it had been a terrible ordeal for his mother and father.

"They had been putting on a brave face for the rest of us," he said.

"It has been hard for us all, not knowing from one moment to the next whether he was still alive or not."

Dylan McFaul, the son of Irish hostage Stephen, told the BBC: "I just can't wait to see him"

Mr McFaul said the family had received support from the Irish government's Foreign Affairs Department and Sinn Fein's Paul Maskey.

He said Stephen, in his first call, to another brother, had wanted the Algerian army to pull back and stop firing on the camp.

"He said Al Qaeda were treating them well, they were unharmed. He said he was allowed to speak freely. They listed demands they wanted publicity and they wanted the Algerian army to move away from the base and nobody would come to any harm."

Algerian soldiers had been surrounding the facility near In Amenas that Islamic militants occupied on Wednesday, after killing a Briton and an Algerian.

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