Held Hostage

Held Hostage re-aired Tuesday, December 2, 2015.

Hear the full story of the Western citizens that were held hostage by Al Qaeda in Algeria.

About the Program

Premiered: October 22, 2013

This PBS documentary reveals the terrifying story of Western citizens held hostage by Al Qaeda at the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria.

body_held-hostage_1.jpgHeld Hostage includes exclusive interviews with survivors and the families of some of those who died, many of whom are speaking on camera and telling the full story of the incident for the first time. The attack, which took place in January 2013, left over 37 foreign hostages’ dead, including a number from USA, UK, France, Japan and Norway. The gas field is operated by the Algerian state oil company Sonatrach with the British firm BP and the Norwegian firm Statoil. As the horrific events unfolded over four days in the full glare of the world’s media, Algerian special forces and helicopter gunships attacked the site in an effort to end the crisis.

The film raises many unanswered questions, such as how did a convoy of terrorists manage to travel undetected across hundreds of miles of desert and gain control of one of Algeria’s most important and valuable gas facilities? And ultimately who was responsible for the safety of its workers?

The documentary reveals the following: 

  • We follow the story of Steve Wysocki, the American contractor who had been working in Algeria for over 15 years. Despite the temptations of retirement on a horse farm in his native Colorado Steven found the lucrative contract in the desert too much to turn down and had been working at In Amenas for four years before the terrorists struck.
  • Fellow American Nick Frazier had been worried by strikes amongst his Algerian co-workers and rumours of minor security breaches in the months preceding the attack. He had shared his concerns with his wife but neither of them expected the terrifying hostage siege he and his colleagues were to endure.
  • Paul Morgan, who was security liaison for the site, told colleagues on January 13th - just three days before the attack - that his powers had been taken away from him, meaning he could no longer guarantee the safety of the ex-pats at the site and that he was therefore transferring to another site. He was killed in the attack by Al Qaeda militants on January 16 2013.
  • Lorraine Barlow, widow of contractor Garry Barlow who died in the attack, says in the programme: “A lot of what went wrong at In Amenas would seem to be based around the lack of any security. The only way we will know what [the] security procedures are is if BP has an open and complete investigation into the security process.”
  • Stephen McFaul, one of the survivors of the attack who speaks for the first time in the film, claims that Algerian military helicopters fired on the hostages: “I was waving with my hands in the air. But the helicopter decided to fire on me with its machine gun,” he says. Of the helicopter pilot who fired on the vehicles carrying the hostages, he says: “[He] obviously had clear instructions to take these vehicles out at all costs to try and stop them getting to the facility. That means that 30-odd hostages who were travelling in the vehicles lost their lives.”


Held Hostage was produced by Adrian Gatton.


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