SA man in Algeria escapes

2013-01-25 00:00

A SOUTH African was caught up in the hostage drama at a natural gas plant in the Sahara desert in Algeria.

The man, whose name was not made public, was among those rescued by the Algerian army, Ebrahim Ebrahim, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation told a press conference in Pretoria yesterday. He said the man had returned safely to South Africa on Monday. Sister paper Beeld learned that he works for a aviation company.

It is not known whether he was held hostage or how he was rescued. During the rescue, at least 48 hostages, as well as 32 extremists, were killed in the special forces’ counter attack that lasted 72 hours. The dead hostages included 37 expatriates from eight countries. A number of people were either rescued by the Algerian army or escaped.

The extremists, who allegedly has close ties with Al-Qaeda, were armed with automatic assault rifles, missile launchers, rockets and grenades.

The hostage drama is linked to the conflict in Algeria’s neighbour, Mali, where France has embarked on a military campaign to halt the advance of Islamic militants.

Ebrahim said South Africa condemned the terrorists attack in the strongest terms. South Africa supported the international war against terrorists as well as multilateral attempts — especially those of the United Nations and the African Union — to eradicate terrorism. South Africa would also support Algeria in this war, Ebrahim said.

He said it was necessary to help African states to dissolve the volatile situation in the Sahel region in western Sahara, which includes Mali, the north of Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.

South Africa announced last year that it would send humanitarian aid to the Sahel region. More than 18 million people in the region need food. It has in the past few months already sent thousands of tons of food and agricultural aid to the Sahel region.

The agricultural aid send to Niger includes a toxin against locusts that South African experts developed for desert conditions, Ebrahim said.

South Africa recently also announced it was sending 400 troops to the Central African Republic to support François Bozizé in his fight against rebels.

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