A French worker at a southern Algerian gas plant, where hundreds of workers were taken hostage by Islamist militants, says he hid under his bed for nearly two days straight.
Alexandre Berceraux, a catering worker, said that he was eventually found by whom he believed to be Algerian soldiers after spending 40 hours under his bed, according to Radio France Internationale.
“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 was quoted as saying. “Nobody expected this. The site was protected. There were soldiers in place.”
Berceraux added: “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 that he learned “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.”
On Friday Algeria initiated another military operation to free a few dozen foreign hostages still held by the Islamist militants.
Algerian state-run media reported that 650 hostages have been freed thus far. An Algerian source said 100 of the 132 foreign captives were freed, but the situation for other 32 remains unknown.
“We are still dealing with a fluid and dangerous situation where a part of the terrorist threat has been eliminated in one part of the site, but there still remains a threat in another part,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told the U.K. Parliament, reported Reuters.
At the same time, the Masked Brigade, which took the workers hostage earlier this week, said that it would trade two American hostages for two Islamist fighters who are detained in the United States, reported Al-Jazeera. They are Omar Abdel-Rahman, the “blind sheikh,” and Aafia Siddiqui.
On Thursday, an estimated 30 hostages and 11 fighters with the al-Qaeda-aligned group were killed during an army raid carried out by Algeria.
Two British, two Japanese, a French national, eight Algerians, and others were killed. The Japanese government expressed dismay over Algeria’s choice to raid the gas plant, leading to the bloodshed.
“There is still much confusion in the information but we are receiving reports of casualties,” said Yoshihide Suga, the Japanese chief Cabinet secretary, according to Al-Jazeera. “We deeply regret the actions taken by the Algerian military.”
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