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Family delighted as hostage freed
Members of the family of an Irishman held in the Algerian hostage crisis have described their delight at his release after two days of anguish.
Father-of-two Stephen McFaul, 36, from west Belfast, made contact with his wife Angela around 3pm to say he was safe and well.
His 13-year-old son Dylan choked back tears as he declared he would give the electrician a "big hug" as soon as he sees him and never let him go overseas again.
"I am very happy, I just cannot wait for him to come home," he said.
Mr McFaul, who also has a four-year-old son Jake, is being looked after by Algerian authorities while arrangements are made for his return.
As his family prepared for celebrations, confusion reigned over reports that a second man from Northern Ireland remained captive under al Qaida-linked terrorists at the gasfield complex in In Amenas.
Democratic Unionist MP for North Antrim Ian Paisley said he had been informed by the UK Government that one of the hostages still being held was from his constituency.
Mr McFaul currently lives in Antrim but Mr Paisley said he understood the Foreign Office was referring to another individual, a British passport holder.
However, Ireland's Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore played down the speculation.
"I think that may have been the same person," he said.
Mr McFaul's father Christopher said his son is an easy-going, happy-go-lucky person who took everything in his stride, but that he was worried for him and delighted that he had come through the ordeal.
"I never doubted it but it is hard to say in those situations," he said.
Donna McBride, Mr McFaul's sister, added: "I feel so sorry for the rest of the families who have lost loved ones and others who are missing."
Mr McFaul, who was last at home on Boxing Day, works as a supervising electrician at the gasfield.
Algeria is one of a number of African countries he has worked in during an extensive career in the industry.
His sister said he is a very kind person who would do anything for anyone.
"I can imagine out there he has probably done everything in his power to make sure everybody is safe," she said.
"It is just a pity that some people have lost their lives."
Mr McFaul's wife Angela said she expects him home tomorrow.
After meeting with her earlier today, Mr Gilmore said Mr McFaul was physically unharmed.
"Angela told me there is not a scratch on him," he said.
The Tanaiste would not elaborate on Mr McFaul's experience, saying he would prefer to leave it to him to tell the story.
He said he was also conscious of the safety of others still involved.
It is understood there are 60 Irish nationals registered as living in Algeria.
"We have contact with those people and none of them are in any danger," Mr Gilmore added.
Ireland's Taoiseach Enda Kenny paid tribute to everybody involved in the effort to resolve the crisis.
Brian McFaul, the gasfield worker's brother, said some of the toughest parts of the hostage drama were sparked by confused reports from the region.
"The not knowing part - not knowing what's happening," he said.
"You are relying on the news agencies from around the world and you are trying to to decide what story is true and what's not."
Mr McFaul said one of the lowest moments was when reports emerged of the Algerian army raid on the plant and detail of soldiers firing on the camp.
He described his brother as a considerate man.
"He's the type of person who would try and look after others," Mr McFaul said.