Belfast man who escaped Algeria kidnappers speaks of ordeal
Belfast-born David McKittrick has been reporting on Northern Ireland since 1971, He has written for the East Antrim Times, the Irish Times and was The Independent's Irish correspondent for many years. He is the author of several books including Making Sense of the Troubles (2000) and Lost Lives (1999).
Thursday 17 January 2013
The brother of Belfast man Stephen McFaul tonight told how he was hunted and eventually discovered by al-Qa'ida gunmen who took over a gas plant in Algeria.
Mr McFaul, a supervisor who drew up work rosters, had just despatched a busload of workers from living quarters to the plant when an attack was launched, killing a security guard on the bus.
Stephen McFaul was able to stay in contact with his brother Brian by mobile phone and text before being seized by them, Brian said. The sound of gunfire could be heard as he spoke.
After he was discovered in the living quarters the terrorists allowed him to make one further call to his family. Then many hours passed with his family not knowing whether he was dead or alive before he was able to ring his wife with the news that he was safe and well.
Brian said last night: "He said he sent the first bus out, and it was attacked as it was leaving the camp. When he heard gunfire he knew something was up so they all made a run for cover.
"Steve and two others managed to hide in one of the living quarter rooms and locked themselves in. They couldn't see what was happening but they could hear gunfire and they got under beds."
According to Brian: "We were talking away to him. He was laughing and joking, saying it's like riots in west Belfast. He was trying to let his mum and dad know he was okay, but you could hear gunfire in the background."
His messages stopped for several hours, however, until he rang to say he had been captured and to pass on a list of demands, adding that he was being treated well.
Brian added: "We're waiting to hear how he was rescued. He's been through a terrible ordeal, I can only imagine how he felt.
"When news came through that Stevie was free I told mum and dad and they just hugged each other, shouting at the top of their voices, going into the street and shouting it out.
"It was like the best news in the world that you could ever get. We're so delighted but we feel so sorry for other families involved."
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