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Todmorden man rescued from terrorists in Algeria
11:06am Monday 21st January 2013 in News
A HOSTAGE from Todmorden who was held captive for three days by al Qaida terrorists in Algeria has spoken of his ordeal.
Martin Johnson, 62, who works as a motor engineer, was one of dozens of workers held hostage at the gas refinery in the Sahara desert.
Algerian military forces stormed the complex last Thursday and Friday in an attempt to free the hostages.
Eleven Islamist militants were killed after they shot dead seven hostages.
Speaking after his release on Algerian State TV, the dad-of-four said: "I think they did a fantastic job. I was very impressed with the Algerian army. Very exciting episode. I feel sorry for anybody that's been hurt."
Coun Michael Gill is an old family friend of Mr Johnson.
He said: “I used to know him quite well. He is a relative of an ex-partner of mine and I used to spend a lot of social evenings at his house in the Summerfield Road area. He was a very pleasant guy and I’m glad to hear he’s got out ok.”
The siege at In Amenas transfixed the world after radical Islamists linked to al Qaida stormed the complex on Wednesday, which contained hundreds of plant workers from all over the world.
The militants, who came from a Mali-based al Qaida splinter group run by an Algerian, attacked the plant armed with heavy machine guns and rocket launchers in four-wheel drive vehicles, they targeted a pair of buses taking foreign workers to the airport.
The militants then turned to the vast gas complex, divided between the workers' living quarters and the refinery itself, and seized hostages, the Algerian government said. The gas flowing to the site was cut off.
The accounts of hostages who escaped the stand-off showed they faced dangers from both the kidnappers and the military. The militants focused on the foreign workers from the outset, largely leaving alone the hundreds of Algerian workers who were briefly held hostage before being released or escaping.
Algerian special forces stormed the natural gas complex in the Sahara desert on Saturday to end the stand-off, and the government said all 32 militants were killed.
Mr Johnson was interviewed while sitting with a group of other freed hostages travelling on a bus.
Darren Matthews, another freed Briton, said he was 'relieved' to be going home.
And another hostage said the 'gendarmes did a fantastic job, kept us all nice and safe and fought off the bad guys. I never really felt any danger, to be honest'.
A total of 685 Algerian and 107 foreigner workers were freed over the course of the four-day stand-off, the Interior Ministry said, adding that the group of militants that attacked the remote Saharan natural gas complex consisted of 32 men of various nationalities, including three Algerians and explosives experts.
The military also said it confiscated heavy machine guns, rocket launchers, missiles and grenades attached to suicide belts.
De-mining teams have poured over the site searching for explosive traps left behind by the militants.
Sonatrach, the Algerian state oil company running the In Amenas site along with BP and Norway's Statoil, said the entire refinery had been mined.
Algeria has fought its own Islamist rebellion since the 1990s, elements of which later declared allegiance to al Qaida and then set up new groups in the poorly patrolled wastes of the Sahara along the borders of Niger, Mali, Algeria and Libya, where they flourished.