Filipino survivors of Algeria siege back in PH
MANILA, Philippines - The remaining 4 Filipinos who survived the hostage crisis in Algeria are scheduled to arrive Tuesday, January 29, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.
The Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are expected in Manila along with the remains of 4 Filipino casualties in the siege by Islamist gunmen of a remote gas field in the North African country, DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez told reporters.
Hernandez explained that the survivors were repatriated after receiving medical attention in a hospital in the capital Algiers.
A total of 8 Filipinos have been confirmed dead, while one remains missing.
DFA officials are coordinating with their team on the ground in Algeria and the concerned employment agency to obtain a DNA sample from a family member of the lone missing OFW “to facilitate the identification of his remains.”
Identities not disclosed
In a press briefing, the DFA spokesperson refused to disclose the identities of the survivors upon their own request and the fatalities in response to a plea from their families.
Reporters pressed him on the issue and tried to obtain details on their flight arriving in Manila, but Hernandez said he has not been provided with that information and asked the media to respect “the privacy and dignity" of all those who were involved in the incident.
“The survivors need to recuperate from their ordeal having been heavily hurt and traumatized by this recent event while the families of the fatalities especially need the next few days to quietly grieve for their tragic loss in the presence only of close friends and kin. Let us respect their wishes,” he said.
One of the first Filipino survivors to be repatriated last week said that the kidnappers used foreign hostages as human shields to stop Algerian troops aboard helicopters from strafing them with gunfire during the four-day bloodbath.
Joseph Balmaceda told reporters he saw one Japanese hostage draped with explosives, while he and others had their hands bound with cable ties during the ordeal at the In Amenas gas field in the Sahara Desert.
No travel ban yet
Asked if the DFA will now request additional security for OFWs in Algeria, Hernandez said that the "the employers of the victims were focused on taking measures and steps to ensure the safety and security of their workers" in the country.
So far a deployment ban has not been issued, but the department is assessing the security situation there with the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli, Lybia.
Hernandez said they are verifying "whether it is an isolated case or it is something that pervades the whole of the area, and therefore that it warrants a deployment ban."
At least 37 foreign hostages and 29 kidnappers were killed during the siege, which ended in a final showdown between special forces and the remaining militants holed up in the sprawling gas complex.
Most of the gunmen entered Algeria through Mali and their leader said the attack was in revenge for the French intervention in the neighboring country.
Hundreds of expatriates work in the oil and gas fields of Algeria, balancing their high salaries with the risk of the job and terrorism. - Rappler.com, with reports from Agence France-Presse