6 Filipinos killed, used as shields in Algeria

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Joseph Balmaceda, one of the four Filipino oil field workers who was wounded but survived the terrorist attacks of an oil field in Algeria, talks about his ordeal shortly upon arrival at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in Manila, Philippines Monday Jan. 21, 2013. In a separate briefing by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Spokesman Raul Hernandez said six Filipino workers were killed and four more are still unaccounted for. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

Islamic militants used foreign hostages as human shields to stop Algerian troops aboard helicopters from strafing them with gunfire. This was the account of survivor Joseph Balmaceda who arrived in Manila Monday.

Six Filipinos were confirmed killed while four remained missing in the bloody conclusion of the four-day hostage crisis in Algeria that reportedly killed 81.  Details on the cause of their deaths remained hazy, the Department of Foreign Affairs  (DFA) said Monday.

Assistant secretary and DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said 12 other Filipino workers who were at the Ain Amenas gas field at the time of the siege had been accounted for and are awaiting repatriation to the Philippines.

Al-Qaeda-linked militants attacked a gas plant deep in the desert of Algeria and took scores of foreign workers hostage last week in retaliation for French military operations in neighboring Mali. Algerian armed forces stormed the plant on Saturday in a siege that left at least 81 dead.

“[The deaths of the Filipinos] were a direct result of … the incident that happened in the Ain Amenas gas field. Many of [them] were actually rescued, but the people who died, that was the result of explosions and gunshot wounds,” Hernandez said in an interview.

Balmaceda, a father of four, said he saw one Japanese hostage draped with explosives, while he and others had their hands bound with cable ties, during their ordeal that ended on  Saturday.

“Whenever government troops tried to use a helicopter to shoot at the enemy, we were used as human shields,” a clearly stressed Balmaceda told reporters.

“We were told to raise our hands. The government forces could not shoot at them as long as we were held hostage,” he added.

Balmaceda, nursing abrasions on  his face and a loss of hearing, said he was the only survivor out of nine hostages who were aboard a van that exploded, apparently from C-4 explosives that the militants had rigged to the vehicle.

He said two militants were transferring the nine hostages to the central facility of the gas plant, but the bomb went off during a clash with Algerian security forces.

“The only thing left of the car was the back portion of the Land Cruiser,” said Balmaceda, 42.

Sandwiched between tires

“I was the only one who survived because I was sandwiched between two spare tires. That is why I am still here and can talk to you.” Balmaceda said the two militants driving the vehicle were also killed.

When other hostage-takers started firing at him, Balmaceda said he “crawled about

300 meters to where the government forces were. And when I reached them I fainted. When I woke up I was in the hospital.”

Most hostages were freed on Thursday in a first Algerian rescue operation, which was initially viewed by foreign governments as hasty, before the focus of public condemnation turned on the jihadists.

Balmaceda said the incident in which the vehicle exploded occurred on the second day of the siege, apparently during the first rescue operation.

The crisis ended on Saturday with a final assault by Algerian troops.

Hernandez said the government was “getting a clarification about the deaths of the Filipinos … as it was still unclear whether they were hit by friendly fire or enemy bullets or explosives.”

Condolences from Algeria

The DFA was withholding the names of all Filipinos involved, as it was still in the process of informing their relatives about their condition, he added.

“The DFA is now in the process of notifying the next of kin of the six confirmed dead and coordinating the shipment of their remains, while locating the whereabouts of the four unaccounted for,” Hernandez said.

The official said the Algerian government, through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ director general of Asia-Pacific affairs, has sent its condolences to the Philippine government and the families of those killed.

“He also emphasized to our chargé d’affaires Jun Duenas, who is leading our team in Algeria, that his government took military action and did everything possible to prevent further loss of life … when it was confirmed that the terrorists [had] started executing the foreign hostages,” the DFA official added.

22 Filipinos on site

A total of 26 Filipinos are employed at the Ain Amenas gas field that was attacked by militants on Wednesday, but only 22 were on site at the time of the incident as four had already gone home to the Philippines on vacation, Hernandez said.

Of the 12 who survived, four are undergoing treatment at  Al-Azhar Clinic in Algiers on their employers’ account. Four are resting at the Mercure Hotel there, while four are already on their way home, he added.

The DFA had earlier repatriated 39 other Filipinos employed in Algerian gas fields, assisted by a DFA team sent from the Philippine Embassy in neighboring Libya.

A total of 1,780 Filipinos are employed either as semiskilled or highly skilled workers across Algeria, Hernandez said. With a report from AFP

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5EV2FNQUSNLESIPZKVIR43JSCI Juan Dela cruz

    R.I.P. to those brave Filipinos who put their lives in danger just to earn money for a decent life of their families in the Philippines.  I hope the Philippine Government will wake up now because due to corruption, most of peoples tax money went to politicians pockets just like the pabaon of the military, gift of senate president of 2 million for each senators where they level as traditions, pork barrel project expenses with out receipts and can’t be audited. If the President of the Philippines will invest all this money for manufacturing and electronic factories, Filipinos will be more safe here in their own land.

    • kanoy

       THAT HAS BEEN THEIR PLOY,,,HOW TO GET BY WITH DOING NOTHING,,,,CALL ALL OFW HEROES….IT FOOLS THE MASSA….THERE SHOULD BE NO OFW…IF THIS GOV WAS TO DO WHAT THEY WHERE ELECTED TO DO,,,,CREATE JOBS HERE….PAY DECENT WAGES HERE…WHY IS IT THE PRIORITY OF EVERY GOV,,,BUT THE RP,,,TO CREATE JOBS
      Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 155,000 in December, and the unemployment
      rate was unchanged at 7.8 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported
      today. Employment increased in health care, food services and drinking places,
      construction, and manufacturing.US added an average 153,000 jobs a month in 2012 the RP added 0

  • bongarroyo

    ito ang dahilan kung bait ayaw na ayaw ng CBCP sa rh bill noon….

    kukulangin daw ng panangga sa bala ang mga terorista kapag umaatake sila..

  • http://twitter.com/Nattie_Bee Nathanael Adiakpan

    I’m an African from Nigeria, schooling here in Cebu City. When I entered a taxi on Saturday – before the Sinulog – the driver asked me where I was from and when I told him, he thought I said “Algeria” and at once began to tell me all his negative thoughts about the country. I immediately corrected him that I am Nigerian not Algerian. Still, I couldn’t help feeling very bad. After all  both countries are African countries and it’s sad that each and every day, more and more Africans destroy our image in front of the whole world. For crying out loud, there are Algerians here in Cebu where I school. What if the locals here decided to bundle them all up and kill them as revenge? The government in Algeria – and indeed Africa as a whole – needs to take a firm stand about terrorism.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/67MNKU7JSBV35RO7ROKB6G64JI fishy_jojo

      sir, i feel for you. i think the problem here is that the taxi driver could not have been educated enough. early in 2000’s back when the abu sayyaf made more news overseas than our good ones here, many foreigners thought that the entire country was swarmed by terrorists. i remember my dad, being an overseas worker in kuwait at taht time, had to correct many of his non-filipino co-workers’ thoughts about the philippines.
      anyway, it was good that you pointed out to him his misconceptions about nigeria. i hope he spreads it to his family and friends.

  • catmanjohn

    The Algerian government and BP managers at the gas refinery should be held accountable for their negligence, hubris, and stupidity since al-Qaida did issue threats of retaliation prior to this attack, and they failed to respond properly by beefing up security which could have lessened the severity of this horrible incident.

    • kanoy

       THE RP SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE THEY WHERE WARNED IN IRAQ NOT TO MAKE A DEAL WITH AL QUAEDA FOR DE LA CRUZ IT WOULD ONLY SPUR MORE KIDNAPPINGS…IT DID

    • kanoy

       
      BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 20
      — A Filipino hostage whose captors had threatened to behead
      him was released here today after his government acceded to demands
      by the group holding him that 51 Philippine soldiers and police
      officers be withdrawn from Iraq

      Mr. dela Cruz’s case
      quickly became a cause celebre in the Philippines. His release
      followed the pullout Monday of Filipino troops from Iraq, which was
      the demand made by the insurgents in exchange for Mr. dela Cruz’s
      freedom. Manila’s decision to give in to the insurgents drew
      criticism from other countries, including the United States, which
      called it a mistake that could encourage more such kidnappings of
      foreigners in Iraq.

      WHEN THE PHILIPPINES
      JOINED THE U.N. THEY SWORE TO ABIDE BY THIS OATH…

      United Nations’ Loyalty
      Oath

      “I solemnly affirm to
      exercise in all loyalty, discretion and

      conscience the functions
      entrusted to me as a member of the

      international service of
      the United Nations, to discharge those

      functions and regulate my
      conduct with the interest of the United

      Nations only in view, and
      NOT TO SEEK OR ACCEPT INSTRUCTIONS in

      respect to the performance
      of MY duties FROM ANY government OR OTHER

      authority EXTERNAL to the
      organization.”

      THE BACKSTABBERS ABANDONED
      THEIR POST AND DEFECTED TO THE ENEMYS DEMANDS

      NOW WANTS UN HELP WITH
      CHINA? HELP YOURSELF CHINA SHE IS ALL ALONE

  • rodben

    The reason very difficult to find a high paying job in the Phil. if they got job only contractual and under paid so we OFW’s are accepting job anywhere in the globe no matter the danger that could happen on us, the important is to earn money to support our family, if we have chance to have a billions in our pocket we will join in politics to have a life time financial security and protection.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GTVNMZR22PGMS55WQPIJTYB4IY Jaime

    I pray for you OFW’s.  It is too bad our government is so incompetent.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VS5EYSP4FPOTVQCJZ24NRE6Z2M Edgardo Mendoza

    MAMILI KA MAMATAY KA SA BOMBA SA ALGERIA O MAMATAY KA SA GUTOM SA PILIPINAS

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