Algerian man missing for decades found held by neighbour

Algerian man missing for decades found held by neighbour
Omar Bin Omran as a teen (left) and after his rescue.

AGENCIES | An Algerian man who has been missing for more than 25 years was found held captive in his neighbour's home in the northern Djelfa province, local media report, citing authorities.

The victim, named only as Omar Bin Omran, disappeared in the Algerian city of Djelfa 27 years ago and his family assumed he had died during the civil war between the North African country’s government and various Islamist rebel groups.

Footage of him being brought out alive from his hiding place after police raided a house near to his old family home is now going viral after officials confirmed they had arrested a 61-year-old man suspected of holding him prisoner.

Public prosecutors in Djelfa, a mountain town in Algeria with a population of just under 500,000 people a three-hour drive south of the capital Algiers, said in a statement: “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.”

The man held is understood to work as a civil servant and lived alone.

A neighbour of the man abducted told Algerian TV station Bilad: “His poor mum died while he was in captivity, without knowing what had happened to him, without knowing that all this time he was really right beside her.”

A video of the moment bearded Omar B was discovered, in what has been described locally as a covered well under haystacks at a sheep farm, was broadcast by Algerian media.

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 neighbours, 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.”

He added: “The Public Prosecutor's Office ordered that the victim receive medical and psychological treatment, and the suspect will be presented to the Public Prosecutor's Office immediately after the completion of the investigation.”

Officials have promised the “perpetrator of this heinous crime” will be tried with “severity.”

Unconfirmed local reports said the victim’s family had been tipped off about Omar’s whereabouts after the alleged captor’s brother aired grievances on social media during an inheritance dispute.

Algerian media have reported Omar said he had been unable to call out for help because of a spell his alleged abductor had cast on him.

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