DFA sends team to monitor hostage crisis in Algeria

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09:28 PM January 19th, 2013

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By: Tarra Quismundo, January 19th, 2013 09:28 PM

MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Foreign Affairs has sent to Algeria a team of officials from the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli to monitor the hostage crisis at a gas plant there, where a still undetermined number of Filipinos are feared to remain captive.

Still waiting for an official report from the Algerian government, the foreign office also could not confirm yet whether two overseas Filipino workers were among the fatalities following a rescue operation carried out by the Algerian military on Thursday.

“We have sent a team from our embassy in Tripoli to Algeria to monitor the incident on the ground and assist OFWs who may need assistance there,” said DFA Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, the DFA spokesperson.

Asked about the reported Filipino deaths, Hernandez said: “No confirmation from our Embassy in Tripoli on that.”

He said 34 Filipinos employed in the gas field have been flown to Spain and are set to be repatriated soon.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns, meanwhile called on the public to pray for Filipinos trapped in the conflict as he hoped that the government of Algeria will provide timely information to the Philippine government about the incident.

“I am deeply concerned for the safety of our OFWs who are still trapped in an old oil depot in Algeria, particularly news reports that two Filipinos have been killed … Let us pray for an end to the crisis and the safety of our kababayans,” Binay said in a statement.

“The Algerian government has yet to provide any official report to the DFA and we share the department’s hope that such report be provided at the soonest time possible,” he added.

Militants known as the Masked Brigade attacked a natural gas plant in Algeria on Wednesday in an apparent retaliation for the country’s support for French military operations against militants in Mali, where the al-Qaida linked group is based.

Hundreds of foreigners, including British, Norwegian, American, Japanese, Malaysian and Filipino nationals, are known to be among those held hostage.

The Algerian military launched a rescue operation on Thursday, but details have been hard to come by.

Citing information from relatives of Filipino workers in Algeria, the DFA earlier said an unconfirmed 19 Filipinos were in the gas field at the time of the attack.

Some 3,400 Filipinos are known to be working in Algeria, but the DFA has yet to say for certain how many Filipinos were held hostage or affected by the attack and subsequent rescue mission.

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