Freed engineer's teenage son says he'll never allow his dad to return to the oilfields
THE 13-year-old son of freed Irish hostage Stephen McFaul has vowed not to let his father return to the Algerian desert.
Dylan McFaul said he could not wait to give his father "a big hug" as the longed-for news arrived that he had been freed.
"I'm not letting him go back," he added.
Mr McFaul (36), from Andersonstown, Belfast, was among a group of 41 foreign nationals who were held hostage by Islamist militants following a raid on their remote gas refinery near the Libyan border.
The BP engineer was able to call his wife, Angela, at lunchtime to tell her he was free and at a "safe camp".
It brought to an end two days of "hell" for his anxious family in Belfast.
Mr McFaul's parents, Chris and Marie, said: "We got a phone call at five o'clock on Wednesday morning to tell us they'd been taken. Then there were reports of helicopter strikes with 35 dead, 15 dead, but it was only an hour after those reports that we got a call to say he'd escaped."
Mr McFaul had just returned after Christmas leave to his job as a manager for Swedish oil company Itoa, where he has been working for the past two years.
His sister, Donna McBride, told how the family's dread at the confused reports of Algerian army helicopter strikes on the compound with multiple dead and injured hostages and captors had left them fearing the worst.
The family were kept informed of the unfolding crisis by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
However, their joy was tempered with the news that many hostages had been killed and the safety of the others was unclear, including that of another man from Co Antrim.
"I feel sorry for the other hostages still there," said Mr McFaul's father.
Reports from Algeria said as many as 35 of the foreign hostages had been killed when the Algerian military stormed the plant.
Mr McFaul had been able to contact his family twice while he was in captivity. At around 6am he called from the living quarters at the plant where he was hiding with a Scotsman and an Algerian. Gunfire could be heard in the background.
Three hours later, he rang and said he was being held by al-Qa'ida.