Algerian hostages: Hague says crisis 'top priority'

Some freed British hostages told Algerian TV they were "relieved to be out"

The Algerian hostage crisis will remain the UK's "top priority" until every British national is accounted for, Foreign Secretary William Hague says.

Mr Hague tweeted the comment before chairing a meeting of the government's Cobra emergency committee.

As the siege at the gas plant enters its fourth day militants told a Mauritanian news agency they have seven foreign hostages.

About 30 foreigners remain unaccounted for, including about 10 Britons.

Militants are currently holding the workers hostage in an internal area surrounded by Algerian special forces, according to reports.

'Very relieved'

According to the state-run APS news agency 14 Algerian and foreign workers - including one Briton - have died since the crisis at the remote In Amenas desert gas facility began on Wednesday.

Militants initially attacked two buses carrying foreign workers before taking Algerians and foreign workers hostage at the complex.

Algeria said its armed forces attacked on Thursday as militants tried to move some of their captives from the facility, freeing 573 Algerians and about 100 of 132 foreigners.

There are no longer any French hostages in Algeria, the French defence minister said on Saturday.

Start Quote

My heart goes out to the guys that are still there and hopefully everyone comes home safe”

End Quote Darren Matthews Freed Briton

Mr Hague said: "My thoughts are also with the families of everyone affected, particularly those still waiting for news of their loved ones."

A number of freed Britons were been pictured on Algerian TV, where one said he was impressed by Algerian soldiers who battled with the militants.

One of the freed hostages Alan Wright from Portsoy, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland has returned to the UK.

Speaking to BBC Scotland he said: "I'm back in the UK with my wife and looking forward to seeing the rest of my family once I get home and also thinking of all my friends not yet safe."

Another man held hostage, Iain Strachan, 38, from Howwood in Renfrewshire, Scotland, said he was "very relieved to be out", adding: "Obviously we still don't really know what's happening back on site.

"So, as much as we're glad to be out, our thoughts are with colleagues who are still there at the moment."

He said the Algerian army's assistance had been "fantastic".

"I've never been so relieved as when they came and got us off site," he said. "We thank them very much for that."

'Brutal attack'

Mr Strachan was interviewed on a bus alongside Darren Matthews, 29, from Teesside.

Mr Matthews said: "I am relieved to be going to see friends and family. I feel safe at the moment but I won't feel 100% happy until I'm back in the UK, when I am back with my family.

"My heart goes out to the guys that are still there and hopefully everyone comes home safe because, at the end of the day, it's only work. No-one should have to go through that just for a job."

Foreign Secretary William Hague cut short his trip to Australia to return to the UK in response to the crisis.

He chaired the emergency Cobra meeting on Saturday morning.

Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain would do "everything we can to hunt down" those behind the "brutal and savage" attack.

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