Irish hostage in Algeria 'safe and free'
on 17/01/2013 15:32:33
The 36-year-old married man, from west Belfast, made contact with his family at around 3pm.
An Algerian official said earlier today that 20 people, including Europeans and Americans, had managed to escape the kidnappers.
In the past few minutes, Islamist militants claimed that seven of the remaining hostages are alive, including three Belgians, two Americans, a Briton and a Japanese citizen.
The information came from the Nouakchott Information Agency, which often carries reports from al-Qaida-linked extremist groups.
The militant spokesman said the kidnappers were attacked by Algerian helicopters as they tried to leave the complex.
Algeria's news agency, citing local police, said four foreign hostages were freed in the operation.
The Algerian government would not immediately comment.
The Brigade claimed responsibility for the original attack on the Algerian gas plant.
The British Foreign Office said the Algerian authorities confirmed that an operation was underway at the gas plant deep in the desert at In Amenas where the hostages were being held.
Reuters reported a local source as saying that six hostages and eight of their captors were killed in an Algerian strike on the complex close to the Libyan border.
The militants contacted a news agency in neighbouring Mauritania earlier today to claim that 35 hostages and 15 militants died when Algerian helicopters began strafing the plant.
Britain is allowing the Algerian government to take the lead in the crisis and has received no requests for support, Downing Street said today.