Irish man's escape celebrated


A hugely relieved Brian McFaul spoke last night of how his brother Stephen, with a Semtex bomb strapped to his body, had an almost miraculous escape during the horrifying hostage drama in Algeria.

For more than two hours yesterday the extended McFaul family feared that west Belfast man Stephen McFaul had been killed when the Algerian army decided to attack the al-Qaeda-type kidnappers, Brian McFaul told The Irish Times last night.

Five al-Qaeda Jeeps were attacked and many of the hostages and kidnappers were killed, Stephen told his wife in a phone call from Algeria. “But Stephen was in the lucky Jeep,” said Brian.

For 48 hours Stephen’s wife Angela, living in Antrim, his son, Dylan (13) and stepchildren, Rebecca, Anton and Ethan, and other members of his family in Andersonstown in west Belfast were watching and listening to every news bulletin to find out what was happening. It was over the head of his other son Jake (4), but he too would have sensed the anxiety and concern.

Hostages killed

Then yesterday afternoon word came through of an attack at the camp where the hostages were being held.

“When we heard there were a large number of hostages killed and there was no mention of the Irish citizen we were expecting the worst,” said Brian.

But two hours later the great relieving phone call came through from Angela in Antrim.

“She said she was speaking to Stephen and he was free,” Brian recounted.

Based on what Stephen told Angela, the family was able to piece together a clearer picture of what happened. “He was on his way out of the compound in one of five Jeeps. The Algerian army bombed the compound. Stephen at the time was wearing Semtex around his neck,” said Brian.

Made a break

“The al-Qaeda were trying to take him from the compound, but to where Stephen was not 100 per cent sure. Four of the Jeeps were taken out and everybody in them was killed, and the Jeep my brother was in crashed and my brother made a break for it,” he added.

“You couldn’t write it! Stephen was in the lucky Jeep – that’s what you get for being Irish,” he said.

“It was a terrible ordeal for him. You have to remember some of his friends are still being held captive.

“My heart goes out to all the families who have lost loved ones and all because of the Algerian government. They should not have bombed them,” said Brian.

DUP MP Ian Paisley jnr said he was told by the British foreign office that a second man who was from north Antrim was also taken hostage.

However, Brian McFaul and West Belfast MP Paul Maskey, who assisted the family, believed and hoped it was a “case of crossed wires” and the man referred to was Stephen McFaul.

Brian said that all his family couldn’t wait to have Stephen home. “You should have seen the tears of joy from Dylan after the tears of sadness and worry over the past 48 hours,” said Brian. “He was a real soldier – he stuck it out well.”

Dylan choked back tears as he said he would give his father a “big hug” as soon as he sees him and never let him go overseas again. “I am very happy. I just cannot wait for him to come home,” he said.