In an interview broadcast on national television channel Al Wataniya, Neili stated that he was released on Friday, January 18, after his two-day capitivity at an Algerian gas plant in In Amenas close to the Tunisian-Algerian borders. “We were all scared… When we left, the Algerian army took care of us right away and made sure we were safe,” he added.
According to the same source, Neili is a 30-year old engineer from the small town of Ksar Ouled Beb in the governorate of Tataouine. He survived a bloody rescue mission by the Algerian army in which 23 hostages and 32 armed “terrorists” were killed, according to the Algerian Ministry of the Interior.
In a press release issued by the presidency’s office of Tunisia on January 19 to announce Neili’s release, President Moncef Marzouki expressed solidarity with the Algerian government and praised its efforts in protecting its territory and borders with Tunisia. “We thank the Algerian authorities for making sure the Tunisian diaspora there is safe and protected,” read the statement.
According to Reuters, the attack on the gas field was undertaken by alleged Islamist militants, who belong to al-Qaeda. Algerian authorities opted for a military intervention to free the hostages rather than negotiations with the attackers. No further details were provided regarding the decisionmaking behind the rescue mission. The consequent high death toll has sparked critical international reactions, mainly from Japan, England, and the U.S.