Muscat: The hostage crisis in the remote Algerian gas field which rocked the world has an Oman connection. Darren Matthews, 39, one of the hostages who managed to flee from the gas plant on Sunday after hiding for more than 24 hours in the kitchen, had worked in Marmul in Oman.
"We had been extremely worried about Darren and we are pleased and relieved to learn that he is safe and well," said a friend, who had worked for him. According to his LinkedIn page, Matthews specialises in electrical inspections and has worked in some of the most dangerous parts of the world, including Ghana.
An engineer by profession, Matthews worked during the pre-commissioning/commissioning phase of Harweel Cluster Phase II facilities project for PDO/Petrofac in 2009. The Harweel Cluster Phase II was involved in engineering, procurement and construction works for a new oil and gas processing station and was associated with facilities like oil and gas pipelines and electrical transmission lines to support oil production.
"A large number of people came here in 2009 and 2010 but now everybody has gone back to their respective countries or are working in other places as the project is complete," a senior official associated with the project said.
The hostage death toll from the four-day siege at an Algerian gas plant deep in the Sahara climbed to 80 on Monday, with at least nine Japanese nationals also reported killed in an attack claimed by Al Qaeda.
Algerian Special Forces mounted a "final assault" on the last militants holding out at the remote BP gas plant at in Amenas, bringing to an end the four-day stand-off in the desert.
Matthews, a father of one, managed to free himself from the natural gas plant in the Sahara following his great escape from the desert. He took refuge in a kitchen at the facility at In Amenas as the drama unfolded.
There were people from Western countries and around 20 Algerians with him. They covered the windows with paper so that they could not be spotted. After hiding for nearly 24 hours in the kitchen, the group made a break for it. The Algerians helped disguise them before cutting through the two perimeter wires and then climbing the fence and running into the desert as gunfire chattered behind them.
After his release, Matthews appeared on Algerian state TV with three other British hostages. "I feel safe at the moment, but I won't be 100% happy until I am home and see my family. My heart goes out to those who are still there," he told the TV reporter.
His colleagues, who checked with his family, confirmed that he had returned to his home in UK on Sunday. "I couldn't believe when we saw that he was in the news, but I couldn't be more happy more," one of them said.
"Nobody really knew he was out there until he was released and appeared on the TV. It all came as a big shock to everyone. I knew he worked in Algeria, but it was only when I saw him on TV that I found out he'd been involved," they added.
Meanwhile, Darren's friends in Muscat expressed their joy that he had escaped unhurt. "We are looking forward to hearing from him soon," one of them said.