OFWs flown home from Algeria – government

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02:29 PM January 20th, 2013

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January 20th, 2013 02:29 PM

MANILA, Philippines- The Philippines said Sunday that 52 of its nationals caught up in the Algerian hostage crisis had been accounted for, but it was still not known whether any Filipinos were among the dead.

The Algerian interior ministry said 23 foreigners and Algerians were killed after Al-Qaeda-linked gunmen began their attack on the In Amenas gas plant deep in the Sahara desert Wednesday.

The Philippines has not confirmed how many of its nationals were working at the plant, but said 52 had been accounted for and 39 of those were expected to arrive in Manila on Sunday.

The workers had been evacuated via London and Dubai and were due in the capital at 4:00 p.m. (0800 GMT) aboard a commercial jet, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said.

“Based on reports from our team in Algeria… we have 52 from Algeria who have been accounted for,” Hernandez said.

Filipino diplomats in Algeria were continuing to coordinate with authorities and employers to determine the “whereabouts and conditions of other Filipinos working in the gas plant”, he said, although it was unclear how many there might be.

It was also not clear whether there were any Filipinos among the dead.

The Algerian interior ministry said 32 kidnappers were also killed during the siege, and special forces were able to free 685 Algerian workers and 107 foreigners.

On Saturday, the wife of Filipino hostage Ruben Andrada said he told her the militants draped a bomb on his neck “like a necklace” but he and others were saved when the device aboard their hijacked vehicle failed to explode.

Another Filipino survivor, Jojo Balmaceda, employed by British oil giant BP, told local television in the Philippines how he had escaped after an explosion.

He said he and three other Filipino workers were taken at gunpoint as they arrived for work, tied up and thrown into a truck along with Japanese and Malaysian hostages, a television network reported.

Balmaceda escaped when the truck was hit by an explosion but sustained a gunshot wound to his head that affected his hearing, the report said.

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