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Algerian man found alive in cellar after 26 years

17-05-2024

ALGIERS: A man who vanished almost 30 years ago at the age of 17 following an alleged kidnapping has been found alive in his neighbor’s house in a hole in the ground in a sheep pen underneath stacks of hay.

Named as Omar Bin Omran (or Imran) and said to be one of nine children, he is believed to have disappeared in the city of Djelfa in Algeria 27 years ago.

His family assumed he had been killed during the civil war between the North African nation’s government and various Islamist rebel groups that raged for 10 years in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The truth was much closer to home: the missing man was found in his neighbor’s house less than 200 metres away from that of his own family. A 61-year-old is now in police custody after Omar, now 45, was rescued on May 12.

Footage was shared on social media and broadcast on Algerian television networks of the moment that he was found in what appeared to be a hole in the ground, described by authorities as a sheep pen, within the home of his alleged captor.

The blurry video shows torchlights shining into a pit surrounded by hay as Omar furtively looks up, seemingly in shock at the search party surrounding him, stray pieces of straw in his hair.

Other images have since been circulated of the bearded man emerging from the hole, thought to be a sheep pen, and of him as a teenager, sitting with a dog and with young children before he disappeared.

Reporting from Algerian newspaper El Khabar suggests the dog pined for him close to the spot where he was being held, having recognized his smell. It was alleged in its report that the captor poisoned the dog toward the family off.

A search was launched for Omar in 1998 after he went missing while on his way to a vocational school.

Now aged 45, he was found amid haystacks after the captor’s brother aired grievances on social media, reportedly due to an inheritance dispute.

According to the newspaper, this prompted the family to storm the house in a search for Omar. When they found him, his alleged captor attempted to flee before being restrained and then arrested.

Tragically, Omar’s mother died in 2013 without ever knowing the truth of what happened to her son. Reports suggest Omar was made aware of his mother’s death whilst in captivity.

A relative said on Facebook: ‘Thank god my cousin was found. Bin Imran Omar is in good health after 26 years of disappearance. Awaiting details of the case and investigations.’ Public prosecutors in Djelfa, a mountain city of around 500,000 people around 140 miles south of coastal capital Algiers, say Omar will receive psychological care after being rescued as they vowed to get him justice.

‘The Djelfa Attorney General’s Office informs the public that on May 12 at 8pm local time it found victim Omar B, aged 45, in the case of his neighbour, B.A., aged 61,’ they said in a statement.

A court official in Djelfa was quoted as saying: ‘Two days ago, on 12 May 2024, the Public Prosecutor’s Office received, through the regional department of the National Gendarmerie in El Jadid, a complaint against an anonymous person claiming that the complainant’s brother, Omar bin Omran, who has been missing for about 30 years, is in the house of one of his neighbors, inside a sheepfold.

‘Following this report the General Prosecutor of the Court of Idrisiya in the province of Djelfa ordered the National Gendarmerie to open an in-depth investigation and officers went to the house in question.

‘The missing person was found and the suspect, the 61-year-old owner of the house was arrested.’ (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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