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Friday, January 18, 2013

Algerian TV Interviews Workers Freed From Gas Facility

Footage from Algeria’s ENTV news channel.

Algeria’s ENTV news channel interviewed a number of local and foreign workers who had been held captive in a gas facility and were freed on Friday, with some of them expressing relief from hospital beds or a bus in this video.

The footage was some of the first of its kind to be broadcast as Algerian special forces continued to rescue the hostages. As our colleague Steven Erlanger reports, some of the workers managed to hide or escape

The interviews were in Arabic and English, with some of the men speaking from what appeared to be a medical clinic or from the In Amenas hospital. The men interviewed were asked repeatedly what they thought of the Algerian Army, and they expressed relief and gratitude.

A man who identified himself as a Turkish worker said: “We were in our rooms. We just heard what was happening. They saved us.”

Some of the workers were injured. “It happened so fast,” said a man with a bandaged head lying on a hospital bed.

Many of those interviewed spoke with British accents. One man who identified himself as Darren Matthews from England, said: “I feel safe at the moment but I won’t feel 100 percent happy until I’m back in the U.K. after I see my family. My heart goes out to the guys that are still there and hopefully everyone comes home safe because, at the end of the day, it’s only work.”

Another British man said he was very reliev! ed to be out. “As much as I’m glad to be out, my thoughts are with colleagues that are still there at the moment.” Asked what he thought about the Algerian military, he said, “I have never been so relieved as when they came and got us off site.”

In Arabic, a number of workers, who said they were employees of BP and Halliburton, described being rescued by the army. “The soldiers hit the terrorists. We were all in a room, all 260 of us, standing there, and that’s when they struck them by plane. We knew there was a back door, so we broke it down and escaped,” one man said.

The man said that a leader of the kidnappers, named Taher, was killed by the Algerian forces. “After that there was very heavy shooting, but we got out and escaped.”

Another appeared to be describing a second army assault on the compound, saying, in part, “The army went in at around 12 or 12 and something, they went in with planes and every part of the army, like the special forces.”

Follow Christine Hauser on Twitter @christineNYT.