Scot believed free after gas plant kidnap chaos

HOPES rose last night that one of the Scots involved in the Algerian hostage crisis had escaped unharmed.

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n Freed hostages talk to Algerian state television after their ordeal in the Sahara desert
n Freed hostages talk to Algerian state television after their ordeal in the Sahara desert

MP Jim Sheridan said he had been in contact with the Foreign Office about the fate of Iain Strachan, a 38-year-old electrician from Howwood in Renfrewshire.

Mr Sheridan said his information was that Mr Strachan was safe and had made contact with his family.

The Foreign Office, however, said it would not comment on individual cases of workers at the gas complex which was targeted by terrorists on Wednesday.

Mr Sheridan said: "I have spoken to the Foreign Office and they have told me that he's safe and on his way to Sicily.

"He has been in touch with his family. I'm delighted that he's safe and that he's out of there. But I'm also sorry for families who have lost loved ones."

A spokeswoman for the FCO said: "We are working hard to resolve the situation safely as quickly as possible."

Unconfirmed video footage of Mr Strachan interviewed by Algerian state television was released yesterday.

In it Mr Strachan says he is "very relieved to be out". He said: "We still don't know what's happening back on site. So, as much as we're glad to be out, our thoughts are with colleagues still there."

In Howwood yesterday, Mr Strachan's family were unavailable for comment.

One resident in the close-knit community, who asked not to be named, said: "It's such a horrendous situation. Our hopes are obviously that everyone involved makes it home safe."

Yesterday First Minister Alex Salmond confirmed that all Scottish workers being kept hostage by militants in Algeria were safe and well but there were reports that around 30 foreign nationals were still caught up in the crisis. Security sources said nearly 100 overseas workers had been "released" – and put the total originally seized by Islamist militants at 132.

At least 10 UK citizens are understood to remain "at risk" as local efforts continue to end the terrorist attack at the remote desert gas facility.

The Algerian government said last night that a significant number of foreigners had been freed in an operation led by its own special forces but an unspecified number had been killed.

Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed his frustration he had not been pre-warned of the special forces assault, in which some foreign workers were killed.

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