Canadian who escaped Algerian hostage-taking flown to Norway

The Globe and Mail

This Oct. 8, 2012 satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe shows the Amenas Gas Field in Algeria which is jointly operated by BP and Norway's Statoil and Algeria's Sonatrach. (The Associated Press)

A Canadian Statoil employee who was among the first to escape Wednesday’s hostage-taking at an Algerian gas field is on his way to Norway, a Statoil spokesman told The Globe Friday.

Ola Morten Aanestad said the man is a Canadian resident but wouldn’t confirm his citizenship or any other personal details. He and four Norwegian Statoil employees were able to escape the facility on Wednesday, as militant Islamists took dozens captive. The Canadian and four Norwegians made it safely to a nearby military camp.

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The Canadian was among those being flown on Friday to Bergen, Norway, where Statoil has set up a “next-of-kin centre” to provide support and information for survivors of the ordeal and “all the family members of those involved in this horrible incident,” Mr. Aanestad said. The Canadian resident “is among those on their way or already arrived in Norway.”

Mr. Aanestad said he couldn’t provide more information. “We are in a very stressful and difficult situation. Information is held very tightly. This situation is still ongoing.”

An additional four Statoil employees involved in the hostage-taking had escaped. But “unfortunately, the situation remains unclear for eight of our employees following the terrorist attack on the In Amenas facility,” Statoil executive vice-president Lars Christian Bacher said in a statement Friday afternoon. “We have received reports that a military operation by the Algerian authorities is still ongoing in the area.”

Norwegian news organization Aftenposten reported Friday that the Norwegian government had sent an aircraft staffed with medical personnel to help treat survivors of the hostage-taking. There were reports Friday that the aircraft had trouble obtaining clearance to land near In Amenas itself.

Canada’s foreign affairs department wasn’t able to immediately confirm the Canadian’s status or whereabouts. On Wednesday foreign affairs released a statement saying Ottawa was “aware of one Canadian who was reported to be in the area and have confirmed their safety” and was “working to confirm no other Canadians or dual-nationals are involved and are monitoring the situation.” But later that day, a subsequent statement made no reference to a Canadian involved, saying only that they “do not believe that there are Canadians or dual-nationals among the hostages.”

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