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Friday, January 18, 2013

Irish Hostage Is \'Safe and Free\' in Algeria, but Britons Are Told to Brace for Bad News

An Arabic-language video report from Al Jazeera showing the gas facility in Algeria where dozens of workers were taken hostage by Islamist militants.

Following a military raid on a gas facility in Algeria, where a heavily armed group of Islamist militants took dozens of workers hostage, the Irish government confirmed on Thursday that a man from Belfast who had been part of the group taken captive was freed. The fate of other hostages remained unclear.

Algeria’s communications minister, Mohand Saïd Oublaïd, said that many of the hostages had been freed, but some were killed in the rescue effort, along with “a large number of terrorists.” A news agency in neighboring Mauritania reported that a spokesman for the Islamists claimed that a number of hostages were killed in the Algerian government’s raid.

Ireland’s foreign minister, Eamon Gilmore, said at a news conference: “While naturally we are delighted that Stephen McFaul is free and safe, our thoughts are with his fellow workers and the other people who have not been so fortunate. Our thoughts are particularly with the citizens of other countries who have still not been accounted for.”

Video of Ireland’s foreign minister, Eamon Gilmore, speaking to reporters about an Irish citizen, Stephen McFaul, who was freed from the custody of kidnappers in Algeria on Thursday.

Mr. McFaul was ph! ysically unharmed and being held at a military base, the minister said. He declined to provide further details of Mr. McFaul’s ordeal, out of respect for the families of the other hostages.

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain confirmed in an interview posted online by Britain’s Channel 4 News that at least one British hostage had been killed and said, “We should be prepared for the possibility of further bad news, very difficult news, in this extremely difficult situation.”

A spokesman for the Norwegian oil firm Statoil, which jointly operates the gas facility with BP, told reporters, “We have received information about two of our employees being physically hurt, not serious, but the situation is unclear and very difficult to follow.”

Agence France-Presse video of a statement by a Norwegian oil company official on the hostage crisis at a facility in Algeria.

In Belfast, Mr. McFaulâ! €™s famil! y expressed joy and relief in interviews with Ulster Television and BBC News. “I feel over the moon. I’m just really excited. I just can’t wait for him to get home,” his young son, Dylan, told UTV, as he broke down in tears.

The Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, said in a statement:

I am greatly relieved to hear that Stephen is safe and well. I believe he has already spoken to his family in Belfast and I wish him a safe return home to his loved ones. I would like to pay tribute to all those who have been involved in the effort to resolve this crisis and my thoughts are with the other oil field workers and their families who have found themselves at the center of this traumatic situation.

In the interview with UTV, Mr. McFaul’s family said he had called his wife after reaching safety. “I was delighted, I could not get better news,” said his mother, Marie. “I feel sorry for the other hostages and their families,” sa! id Mr. Mc! Faul’s father, Christopher.

Follow Christine Hauser on Twitter @christineNYT.

Robert Mackey also remixes the news on Twitter @robertmackey.