Son of Belfast electrician Stephen McFaul says he will never let father return to Algeria after he was held captive by militants
The family of an Irish man held captive by militants at a gas facility in Algeria have expressed their joy after he was freed on Thursday, with his teenage son saying he would give him a “big hug” and not let go.
Stephen McFaul, 36, from west Belfast, contacted his wife, Angela, at around 3pm to confirm he was no longer being held captive, his sister Donna McBride said.
“We are absolutely delighted that he is free and is unharmed,” she said, adding that her brother was currently being debriefed by officials in Algeria.
His 13-year-old son Dylan said: “I feel over the moon, just really excited. I just can’t wait for him to get home. I just can’t wait, I’ll never let him go back there.”
Asked on Northern Irish television channel UTV what was the first thing he would do when his father got home, Dylan replied: “Give him a big hug and I won’t let go.”
McFaul, who has two children, works as a supervising electrician at the natural gas pumping station which was stormed by Islamist gunmen on Wednesday.
When McFaul realised the raid was taking place he hid in the living quarters of the facility, staying in touch with his brother Brian by mobile phone and text. After the gunmen found him, he was allowed to make one final call to his family.
There followed an increasingly tense wait for the family, who were receiving conflicting news reports but no clear idea of whether he was dead or alive. Only when he called home on Thursday afternoon were they able to relax.
McBride said: “He is a very kind person. He would do a lot for anybody, he would do anything for anyone. I can imagine out there he has probably done everything in his power to make sure everybody is safe. It is just a pity that some people have lost their lives.”
McFaul’s father, Christopher, told UTV it had been “a tough 48 hours but we’ve come through it. We’re a strong family. It’s been hard – I’ve tried to put a brave face on it.”
He said his son was easy-going, happy-go-lucky and took everything in his stride.
He added that he felt sorry for the other hostages and their families.
His wife, Marie, said she was “delighted, thrilled to bits” that their son was safe. “We’re very happy –over the moon.”
Ireland’s taoiseach, Enda Kenny, said he was relieved to hear McFaul was safe and well.
“I believe he has already spoken to his family in Belfast and I wish him a safe return home to his loved ones,” he said. “I would like to pay tribute to all those who have been involved in the effort to resolve this crisis and my thoughts are with the other oil-field workers and their families who have found themselves at the centre of this traumatic situation.”
McFaul is a former pupil of De La Salle College in west Belfast where Dylan is a year-nine pupil.
Acting principal, Fiona Kane, said: “We were very concerned and we were rallying round to support the family, that is very much part of our ethos. Dylan was in this morning to tell his form teacher and he’ll be back in school on Monday. I think the family are taking tomorrow to celebrate.”