BBC News

Algeria siege: Alex Salmond says Scottish hostages safe and well

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

"A number" of Scots who had been taken hostage in an Algerian gas plant are now safe and well, Scotland's first minister has confirmed.

Two Scots were earlier said to have been among four foreign hostages freed by the Algerian military.

One of the Scottish hostages has spoken of his relief at "being out".

But in an interview with Algerian TV, the man, named only as Ian, said his thoughts were with colleagues still being held at the In Amenas plant.

He said: "We still don't know what is 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. But, I'm very relieved.

"I've never been so relieved as when they (the Algerian army) came and got us off site, so we thank them very much for that."

BBC Scotland understands one Scottish worker, Mark Grant from Grangemouth, is now with the Algerian army.

It is unclear whether he was one of the two who had been rescued.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond confirmed to MSPs in the Holyrood chamber on Thursday that Scots were among those caught up in the crisis.

'Safe and well'

In a further statement released on Friday, he said: "We are not confirming numbers or other details at this stage as the situation continues to be fluid and is not yet resolved.

image captionMark Grant was among the workers at the In Amenas plant

"However, our police service in Scotland have confirmed that a number of people identified as resident in Scotland, who had been held captive in the In Amenas facility, and of whom I spoke yesterday in parliament, have now been confirmed as safe and well.

"The Scottish police forces involved have all done an excellent job in difficult circumstances in identifying those individuals who live in Scotland and contacting their families. In each case police officers continue to offer every support to the families at this worrying and uncertain time.

"We continue to work closely with the UK government to monitor the situation and stand ready to offer any assistance we possibly can. Our thoughts remain with all of those who are affected by this tragedy."

Al-Qaeda-linked fighters attacked the BP plant in the Sahara Desert on Wednesday, taking many workers hostage.

The militants killed two people - a Briton and an Algerian - in the assault and claimed to have taken 41 hostages, including French, British, US, Japanese and Norwegian nationals.

Algerian security forces launched an operation to retake the facility on Thursday, freeing four foreign workers, including two Scots and up to 600 Algerians.

State-run APS news agency said those freed at the In Amenas installation included 573 Algerians and "around 100" out of 132 foreign workers.

The militants remained holed up at the site, APS said. About 10 Britons are thought to be still held.

Whitehall sources have said they are bracing themselves for multiple British casualties.

In a statement in the Commons on Friday morning, Mr Cameron said up to 30 British citizens had been believed to be "at risk" in Algeria on Thursday evening, but that number had now been "quite significantly reduced".

Mr Cameron had previously warned the country should be "prepared for the possibility of further bad news".

The In Amenas gas field and its facilities are operated by a joint venture of the Algerian national oil company Sonatrach, BP and Statoil.

BP said on Friday there was "a small number" of its employees "whose current location and situation remain uncertain".

More on this story

  • Algeria crisis: British hostages 'relieved' to be free