Philippine workers recount Algeria hostage drama

Updated 19 January 2013
0

Philippine workers recount Algeria hostage drama

MANILA: Foreign workers abducted by Islamist militants in Algeria were garlanded with explosives and put into trucks rigged with bombs, the wife of one of the Philippine captives recounted on Saturday.
Ruben Andrada was just days into his job at a gas plant in the north African desert when he was seized by gunmen avenging what they said was Algiers’ support for French military action in neighboring Mali, his wife said.
“According to him... they draped a bomb on him, like a necklace,” Edelyn Andrada said in an interview aired by Manila radio station DZMM, which said the incident took place during a rescue bid by Algerian forces.
“Luckily, the bomb planted in his vehicle failed to explode. The bombs in the other vehicles went off and so people died,” she added.
She said her husband, whom DZMM said worked as a surveyor for a Japanese company, communicated to her by text message as he recovered at an unspecified hospital where he was being treated for gunshot wounds and cuts.
As reports began to emerge of the terrifying ordeal faced by hostages in Algeria, Jojo Balmaceda, employed by British oil giant BP, told local television in the Philippines how he had escaped the militants.
Balmaceda and three other Filipino workers were taken at gunpoint as they arrived for work, tied up and thrown into a truck along with Japanese and Malaysian hostages, the GMA network reported.
Balmaceda escaped when the truck was hit by an explosion but sustained a gunshot wound to his head that affected his hearing, the station added.
“After that I ran away, fearing that the vehicle would explode. Then I lost consciousness and when I woke up I was already in hospital,” Balmaceda said in a brief telephone interview.
GMA said it interviewed Balmaceda shortly before he was flown to London.
Philippine foreign department spokesman Raul Hernandez did not address AFP queries on Andrada and Balmaceda specifically, and Philippine embassy officials in London were unavailable for comment.
Hernandez said 34 Filipino workers had been evacuated from the Algerian gas field and were on their way home to the Philippines, adding that a team had been sent from the Philippines’ embassy in Tripoli to Algeria.
Hernandez did not reply to AFP queries on whether there were other Filipino casualties or hostages.
The Al-Qaeda-linked gunmen, cited by Mauritania’s ANI news agency, said they still held seven foreigners. An Algerian security official put their number at 10.
International criticism of the haste with which Algeria launched a dramatic military assault to rescue those held has been mounting, after an Algerian security official said it had left dead 12 hostages and 18 kidnappers.


Former guerilla set to be sworn in as East Timor leader

Updated 22 June 2018
0

Former guerilla set to be sworn in as East Timor leader

DILI, East Timor: East Timor will swear in a new government led by former guerilla fighter Taur Matan Ruak Friday following a protracted political crisis that has paralyzed the tiny Southeast Asian nation.
Ruak will head the second government in less than a year in the impoverished half-island nation that won independence in 2002 after a brutal 24-year occupation by neighboring Indonesia.
Born Jose Maria Vasconcelos but universally known by his nom de guerre Taur Matan Ruak — which means “Two sharp eyes” — was a commander in the East Timorese resistance before becoming chief of the newly independent nation’s army.
He also served in the largely ceremonial role of president between 2012 and 2017.
Parliament was dissolved in January amid tensions between former prime minister Mari Alkatiri’s minority government and an opposition centered around independence hero Xanana Gusmao.
An alliance led by Gusmao clinched an absolute majority in elections held in May.
Ruak’s new government includes members of Gusmao’s National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction, the People’s Liberation Party and the youth-based Khunto.
The incoming administration will face big challenges, especially as the clock is ticking fast on East Timor’s disappearing oil and gas reserves.
The resources pay for the bulk of government spending but oil revenues are in steep decline and the country has few other productive economic sectors.
About 60 percent of East Timor’s population is under 25, according to the World Bank, while some 40 percent of its people live in poverty.
Providing jobs for young people and reining in public spending — especially on large infrastructure projects — will be key tasks for the new government, analysts say.