One of the foreign workers who escaped the gas complex in eastern Algeria that was seized by armed militants linked to al-Qaeda was a Northern Irishman, who is expected home soon.
Stephen McFaul, 36, a native of Belfast and father of two and employed as a supervising electrician at the Amenas plant, was riding in a convoy of five jeeps carrying both hostages and kidnappers after the Algerian military began its own rescue operation.
Four of the jeeps were bombed (by the Algerian army), while the one carrying McFaul crashed.
The Irish Times reported that during this hellish period, McFaul was bound and gagged by his captors and had explosives tied around his neck.
According to reports, he managed to escape his captors and even called his wife, Angela, on Thursday afternoon in Ulster to inform her he was safe.
However, it is unclear how McFaul, who was reportedly not harmed by his captors, managed to flee.
McFaul’s brother Brian told Irish media: "(The gunmen) were moving five jeep loads of hostages from one part of the compound. At that stage, they were intercepted by the Algerian army. The army bombed four out of five of the trucks and four of them were destroyed. ... He presumed everyone else in the other trucks was killed. ... The truck my brother was in crashed and at that stage Stephen was able to make a break for his freedom."
Interestingly, Brian McFaul told British media that the captors treated his brother well during his captivity.
“[Stephen] said … they were unharmed. He said he was allowed to speak freely. They [the kidnapers] listed demands they wanted publicity, and they wanted the Algerian army to move away from the base and nobody would come to any harm," he said.
After two worrisome days, McFaul’s family in Ulster is greatly relieved.
His teenage son Dylan told the Belfast Telegraph newspaper: "I am very happy, I just cannot wait for him to come home," he said, adding that he would never allow his father to go overseas again.
McFaul is currently being looked at by Algerian officials as he prepares to return home.
BBC reported that McFaul is due to arrive in the UK by special charter flight on Friday or Saturday.
Brian McFaul, Stephen's brother, complained, as many have, about the lack of clear information concerning the hostage drama.
"The not knowing part -- not knowing what's happening," he said.
"You are relying on the news agencies from around the world and you are trying to decide what story is true and what's not."
He added: “[We] were constantly watching news and hoping that the next news [we] 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.”
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.