DFA: 6 Pinoys killed in Algeria
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) - Six Filipinos are confirmed dead in the Algeria gas field hostage, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Raul Hernandez said Monday, January 21.
"The deaths of the 6 Filipinos were a direct result of the hostage taking incident in the area and mostly by gunshot wounds and the effects of the explosions," Hernandez told reporters.
Four other Filipinos who were held hostage remain missing, Hernandez added.
The identities of the Filipino fatalities have not yet been released to the public.
Hernandez said he had few details as to how the Filipinos died, and did not know if the militants had executed them or whether the victims died when security forces raided the facility.
"I cannot say if they were executed because there were no details of what the circumstances are," he said.
While Algeria has come under criticism for an initial raid on the facility that some foreign governments described as too hasty, Hernandez said the Philippines had not yet taken a stance on the response by security forces.
"We have not had the chance to review that yet," Hernandez said when asked about the raids by Algerian troops.
However he emphasized that the Algerian government had informed Philippine authorities that the military action was undertaken to prevent further loss of lives, after the militants had started executing hostages.
The Philippine government had previously said it did not know if any Filipinos had been killed during the 72-hour siege at the In Amenas gas plant, deep inside the Sahara desert, that ended on Saturday, January 19.
Algeria's Ennahar television reported that the bodies of 25 hostages were found on Sunday by security forces combing through the plant, and that 5 hostage-takers had been captured alive.
But Algeria warned other nations to prepare for a higher body count, as Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal prepared to hold a news conference later Monday.
Dozens of hostages appear to have died.
Survivors' photos seen by AFP showed bodies riddled with bullets, some with their heads half blown away by the impact of the gunfire.
Thirty-two kidnappers were also killed in the standoff, and the army freed 685 Algerian workers and 107 foreigners, Algeria's interior ministry said.
At least 34 Filipinos, including one who was wounded, were evacuated after the siege that began Wednesday, January 16.
Another managed to escape before the Algerian operation.
The militants, whose leader is Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a former Al-Qaeda commander, first killed a Briton and an Algerian on a bus on Wednesday last week, before taking hundreds of workers hostage when they overran the In Amenas plant.
Most of the hostages were freed on Thursday, January 17, when Algerian forces launched a first rescue operation which was widely condemned as hasty.
Algerian forces launched another attack on Saturday, January 19, to end the hostage crisis. - Rappler.com / Agence France-Presse