Algeria hostage Belfast man Stephen McFaul with family

Stephen McFaul Stephen McFaul has been reunited with his family

A 36- year-old electrical engineer from Belfast who survived the Algeria hostage crisis has been reunited with his relatives, a spokesman acting for his family has said.

He said that he was back in the United Kingdom, but is "not on Irish soil".

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.

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

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

Three Britons are confirmed dead and three more are believed to have died after the Algerian army stormed the complex at In Amenas.

Another UK resident is also thought to be dead. The figures include a Briton who was killed on Wednesday.

Five hostage-takers were reported captured at the plant on Sunday.

Timeline

  • 16 January: Militants attack two buses carrying In Amenas workers, killing two
  • They then go on to the gas facility's living quarters and main installation, seizing hostages
  • Some gas workers manage to escape
  • 17 January: Algerian forces attack after the militants try to move their hostages in five 4x4s - four of the vehicles are destroyed in an air strike and an unknown number of hostages killed
  • 18 January: Stalemate as Algerian forces surround the gas plant where the remaining hostages are held
  • 19 January: Algerian forces launch a final assault after reports that the hostage-takers were killing their captives
  • 20 January: Algeria says death toll of 32 hostage-takers and at least 23 captives is likely to rise

Prime Minister David Cameron has warned the hostage crisis could be the start of a decades-long battle against Islamist terrorism in north Africa.

He said the incident was a "stark reminder" of the terrorist threat in that part of the world and added: "This is a global threat and it will require a global response.

"It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months."

A raid by Algerian troops on Saturday ended a four-day siege but Algeria says at least 23 hostages and 32 militants died.

The other Britons who survived the crisis are now back in the UK.

Algerian officials said the hostage-takers - from six different nationalities - belonged to a new Islamist group formed by a veteran Algerian militant and kidnapper, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who recently broke from al-Qaeda.

Mauritanian website Sahara Media says he has claimed responsibility for it in a video message.

He said the operation had been led by 40 migrants from "several Islamic countries, even from the Western countries".

The video is said to have showed Belmokhtar claiming he was prepared to negotiate with Western and Algerian leaders if a French military offensive against Islamists in neighbouring Mali was stopped.

A BP spokesman would not comment on reports in the Algerian media that Belmokhtar had infliltrated his men as drivers, cooks and guards working on short-term contracts for BP at the complex.

British survivors have been flown back to the UK and reunited with their families.

The crisis began on Wednesday when militants attacked two buses carrying foreign workers to the remote site in south-eastern Algeria. A Briton and an Algerian reportedly died in the incident.

The militants then took Algerians and foreign workers hostage at the complex, which was quickly surrounded by the Algerian army.

The Algerian armed forces attacked on Thursday as militants tried to move some of their captives from the facility.

Mr Cameron paid his condolences to the bereaved families, who had undergone "an absolutely dreadful ordeal".

He said questions would be asked about the Algerian response to the crisis, but added: "The responsibility for these deaths lies squarely with the terrorists who launched these vicious and cowardly attacks.

"When you are dealing with a terrorist incident on this scale, with up to 30 terrorists, it is extremely difficult to respond and get this right in every respect."

State news agency APS said 685 Algerian workers and 107 out of 132 foreigners working at the plant had been freed.

The In Amenas gas field is situated at Tigantourine, about 40km (25 miles) south-west of the town of In Amenas and 1,300km (800 miles) south-east of Algiers.

The plant is jointly run by BP, Norway's Statoil and Algeria's state-owned oil company.

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