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Algerian captors 'sorted hostages to find Japanese'
Publication Date : 27-01-2013
Islamist militants who attacked a natural gas plant in Algeria sorted their hostages by nationality and put Japanese in the first vehicle of the convoy to leave the facility's housing compound, three Filipino hostages who survived the attack said.
Speaking during an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun in Algiers on Friday, the three men, who worked at the JGC Corp. facility where the crisis took place, recalled how the rebels attacked the housing compound and put the hostages--all of whom were foreign nationals--in vehicles as they headed to the gas production plant in Ain Amenas, eastern Algeria, on the day following the attack.
The militants took them hostage in the living compound near the plant early on the morning of January 16, they said.
Based on their eyewitness accounts, 37 workers were taken hostage, including seven Japanese, eight Filipinos and others from Britain, Norway and Ireland.
They spent the night under watch by the rebels in an open space with a fountain in the residential area, they said.
They were given water and biscuits, and one of the men said all the hostages were shivering from fear, cold and hunger.
When the Algerian Army began attacking the compound on the afternoon of January 17, the militants ordered hostages to come forward if they were Japanese. After sorting the hostages by nationality, they put the workers into seven cars to leave the housing compound for the production facility.
The Filipinos were put into two vehicles, the men said. The estimated number of vehicles carrying hostages varied between four and six, according to other hostage accounts and media reports.
An Algerian Army helicopter began chasing and shooting the convoy as the cars started moving, the men said.
According to one of the three Filipinos, the car he was in was damaged when a bomb that it was carrying was detonated during the copter attack. The other two Filipinos said the car they were in overturned.
Based on his recollection of the attack, one of them, 46, said he did not have the impression that the army's primary concern was the hostages' lives.
Despite serious injuries ranging from severe burns to gunshot wounds, the three men managed to escape from the vehicles during the chaos and were taken to safety by Algerian soldiers.
One of the three men, 50, who was shot in the abdomen as he attempted to flee, said it was a miracle that they survived.
In a shaky voice, the man expressed his condolences regarding those who died, saying he was incredibly sad to have lost many of his Japanese colleagues in the crisis.
At least one Japanese hostage who survived the crisis is believed to have fled the scene sometime on January 16, when the militants attacked the compound, or the morning of January 17, when the violence escalated, claiming the lives of seven Japanese hostages in the convoy.