18 January 2013

Algeria: Frenchman 'Hid Under Bed for 40 Hours' During Algeria Hostage Crisis

A French hostage said he hid under his bed for 40 hours before he was rescued by soldiers from the hostage crisis at an Algerian gas field.

Alexandre Berceraux, an employee of CIS Catering at the desert gas complex at In Amenas, told Europe 1 radio the initial attack on the site took people by surprise.

"I heard an enormous amount of gunfire. The alarm telling us to stay where we were was going off. I didn't know if it was a drill or if it was real," he said.

"Nobody expected this. The site was protected. There were soldiers in place."

"I stayed hidden for nearly 40 hours in my room. I was under the bed and I put boards everywhere just in case. I had a bit of food, a bit to drink; I didn't know how long it would last," he said.

He was eventually found during Thursday's assault by men he believed to be Algerian soldiers dressed in green.

"I saw some of my colleagues with them, otherwise I would never have emerged."

"I've heard there was a wounded person in the restaurant storeroom yesterday morning. Three Englishmen who had hidden above the dropped ceiling were found along with this wounded person," he added.

Algeria has come under international criticism over the lack of warning and information about the operation to storm the gas plant.

Initial reports quoting the militants suggested a large number of people were killed when the Algerian military opened fire from helicopters as hostages were being moved from one part of the compound to another.

This was confirmed by the Irish foreign minister, Eamon Gilmore, after speaking to the wife of Stephen McFaul, a man from Northern Ireland with an Irish passport.

"The kidnapers attempted to move their captives by convoy. The Algerian authorities, it would appear, attempted to stop that from happening and in the ensuring confusion Stephen McFaul escaped and was brought to safety," Gilmore told CNN.

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