More than 20 Pinoy hostages in Algeria?

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(2nd UPDATE) The Department of Foreign Affairs says it has received reports from relatives that more than 20 Filipinos were among the foreign hostages seized in Algeria

HOSTAGE CRISIS This undated hand out picture released by Norway's energy group Statoil on January 17, 2013 shows a road sign near the In Amenas gas field in eastern Algeria near the Libyan border. AFP PHOTO / STATOIL / KJETIL ALSVIK

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The Philippine government has received reports that more than 20 Filipinos were among the foreign hostages seized by Islamist gunmen in Algeria.

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said a Filipino hostage, along with a Japanese national, had escaped the area before Algerian forces launched a rescue operation, although he had suffered slight injuries.

“The report we received from our embassy in Tripoli indicates that he was able to escape along with a Japanese national,” Hernandez told Rappler on Friday, January 18.

Hernandez added that the Filipino — who was not identified so government could inform the family first — bolted the compound before the Algerian soldiers attacked it.

The man is “slightly injured” and is on his way to the capital Algiers to receive medical attention.

The hostage crisis ended on Thursday when an Algerian air strike killed 34 hostages and 15 kidnappers. Seven hostages are still alive.

MIDDLE OF THE DESERT. Satellite image of the In Amenas gas field in eastern Algeria from Google Maps

20 Pinoys among hostages?

Hernandez later told Agence France-Presse that a brother and a wife of two Filipino workers had separately called the department to say that their relatives and 19 other Filipino co-workers had been in the gas field at the time.

“The Algerians admitted that there were some deaths and injuries on the side of the hostages following the operation undertaken by the Algerian military forces but no details were released,” he added.

Manila was still trying to determine how many Filipinos were in the plant, a task that was complicated by the many foreign companies and contractors operating in the area, he said.

A senior diplomatic official said that the report received Thursday night by the DFA about the crisis in Algeria was actually sourced from the Japanese Embassy in Tripoli.

Philippine diplomats covering Algeria have not made contact with the Filipinos in the gas field, the source added.

REVENGE FOR FRENCH INTERVENTION. An undated grab from a video obtained by ANI Mauritanian news agency reportedly shows former Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) emir Mokhtar Belmokhtar speaking at an undisclosed location. AFP PHOTO / HO / ANI

Reprisal for French strikes in Mali

French news channel France 24 reported on Wednesday, January 16, that Filipinos along with English, Japanese and Malaysian nationals were among the hostages taken by Islamist militants at In Amenas, a gas field in eastern Algeria jointly operated by British oil giant BP, Norway’s Statoil and state-run Algerian energy firm Sonatrach.

The kidnappers later told media in Mauritania that they were holding 41 foreigners, among them several French and 7 American citizens.

An Islamist group said that the kidnapping was in retaliation for the recent French military intervention against armed Islamists who seized control of northern Mali in April 2012.

Foreign governments voiced growing alarm on Thursday over the safety of their citizens in Algeria after the bloody raid.

Algerian media claimed that the military had killed Abu al-Baraa, the leader of the kidnappers who refused to negotiate with the government., with reports from Agence France-Presse

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