Some workers described being forced to strap on explosives-filled belts when Islamist militants stormed the site Wednesday. Others were shot on the spot…

One escaped worker, Stephen McFaul, said through a family spokesman that he initially avoided capture. McFaul, who is from Northern Ireland, locked himself in a room at the compound in the hopes of avoiding detection, said John Morrisey, a family spokesman briefed about the ordeal.

Over the course of the day, however, he was discovered and taken hostage, a fact he revealed to his worried wife and mother through brief telephone calls back home to West Belfast on Thursday morning.

As the militants prepared to move hostages to a more secure area later Thursday, McFaul was loaded on to one of several Jeeps, according to the family spokesman. But as the vehicles moved away, Algerian helicopters closed in on the convoy, raining down a barrage of heavy artillery that directly hit and severely damaged most of the vehicles, causing the one McFaul was traveling in to overturn.