'I heard a lot of shooting - and then nothing'
Ordeal of hostagesTwo survivors of the Algerian hostage drama described yesterday how they came through their ordeal.
A French hostage, Alexandre Berceaux, who works for the CIS catering company at the facility, said he hid in a room away from other foreign hostages, arranging planks of wood to conceal his presence, and survived thanks to food brought by Algerian colleagues.
“I stayed hidden for nearly 40 hours in my bedroom, under the bed,” Mr Berceaux told Europe 1 radio after his release, admitting he had been sure he would end up killed and was still in shock. “When the military came to get me, I did not know whether it was over,” he added. “They arrived with colleagues , otherwise I would never have opened the door.”
Hiding on roof
Berceaux said Algerian soldiers found some British hostages hiding on the roof and were still combing the sprawling gas site for others when he was escorted to a nearby military base, from where he expected to be transferred to France. “They are still counting them up,” he said.
Europe 1 radio spoke to a second released hostage, an Algerian, who also said some others had yet to be rescued.
“There are still some hostages there but they will get them out,” he said, adding that he was with a Frenchman and four British men, including one from Scotland who was hurt during the crisis.
“I haven’t closed my eyes in more than 48 hours,” he said.
Another survivor, a man named Azedine (27) who was the radio operator at Algeria’s In Amenas’ gas plant, was still in shock and unable to shake the face of his dead supervisor from his mind’s eye.
As the young Algerian escaped from the desert complex, he saw the body of his French supervisor and one of the militants putting on his badge.
“My supervisor was a great man; I learned a lot from him. He had been shot, but I did not see the execution. All I saw was his body when I ran with some colleagues to leave the base,” Azedine said.
“The attack had been launched on Wednesday at 0545,” Azedine said. “I remember because as a radio operator I was in contact with the bus that was about to leave the base to drive several expats to the airport. A few seconds after the bus left, I heard shootings, a lot of shootings, and then nothing.
“The group entered into the base right after the attack against the bus. The power was cut off. They were talking in Arabic, but I did not understand what they were saying. They were not Algerians, I thought.
“I stayed in my office. I was concerned because they would have certainly seized my equipment and my Thuraya .
“I stayed silent a couple of hours waiting for the light of day. I saw the terrorists; some were clean, others were dirty, some with beards, others without, and among them a French national with sunglasses. He looked European.
“Colleagues came to me, and we contacted the army people and then we managed to run away. We are very lucky, but the face of my French supervisor is still before my eyes.”