23 Jan 2013

NZ man evacuated after siege in Algeria

10:06 am on 23 January 2013

A New Zealand citizen working nearby has been evacuated following the siege and hostage killings at a gas plant in Algeria.

Thirty-seven workers from the United States, Britain, France, Japan, Romania, Norway and the Philippines have been confirmed dead, while five hostages are missing.

Militants seized the base near the town of In Amenas deep in the Sahara desert just before dawn on 16 January, capturing a plant that produces 10% of Algeria's natural gas exports, and residential barracks nearby.

They demanded an end to French air strikes against Islamist fighters in neighbouring Mali that had begun five days earlier. Islamist fighter Mokhtar Belmokhtar has claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of al Qaeda.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the last British flights out on Saturday night brought not only the remaining freed Britons, but also New Zealanders, Germans, Americans, Portuguese, Croats and Romanians.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) confirmed on Tuesday that a New Zealand citizen has been evacuated from Algeria on the British charter flight to London.

It says it understands that he was based on a BP oil rig, about 7km from the hostage situation, and was not caught up in it directly.

However, MFAT says it can't disclose any more details about the man for privacy reasons, but the New Zealand High Commission in London has been in touch with him to confirm his well-being.