Algerian man kidnapped and held captive by his neighbor for 26 years before being discovered living in a hole under hay bales is in “good health”, reveals his cousin

  • Omar Bin Omran is recovering in hospital after his disappearance in 1998, aged 19.
  • He was found in a paddock used to raise sheep just 100 meters from his home.
  • A 61-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping him.

A man who was allegedly kidnapped and held captive by his neighbor for 26 years just 100 meters from his home is in “good health” but remains in shock after being released earlier this week, his family said.

Omar Bin Omran, originally from El Guedid near Djelfa, 240 km south of Algiers, was only 19 years old when he disappeared in 1998 while on his way to a vocational school, at the height of the civil war in Algeria, causing fears within his family that he had been killed.

But the truth was always under the noses of his grieving family: now aged 45, bearded Omar was found in a sheepfold, covered in bales of hay by his family after storming the neighbor’s house. to information on social networks.

Speaking to Algerian media, the cousin of the missing man, Khaled Reggab, said his loved one was not in “critical” condition but was “shocked, more than shocked” after spending more than a quarter century in captivity.

Mr Reggab appears to confirm reports elsewhere that Omar’s dog pined for him outside the neighbor’s house for two weeks after he went missing – before allegedly being killed by his captor to silence his wailing.

Omar Bin Omran as he was found in a sheepfold in El Guedid, Algeria, earlier this week, after 26 years of detention
Omar pictured as a young man around the age he disappeared in 1998. His family believed he was killed during the civil war.
Images of Omar’s discovery went viral on social media. The caption in Arabic reads: “The moment they found him in their neighbor’s house.”

And he added that the family was in “catastrophic” shock after the news of Omar’s life – coming more than a decade after his mother died without ever knowing the truth.

“I have no information about him but from what I have seen, his state of health is good, it is not critical,” Mr. Reggab told Echorouk News.

“His psychological state is shocked, and more than shocked, he is afraid, especially since he has been detained, which means he is not used to being (outside).

“Omar is currently still under therapeutic and psychological care. I see them (his family) in catastrophic shock.

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The missing man’s story shocked the world after it was first reported earlier this week.

He was discovered on May 12 after a relative of the alleged kidnapper posted on social media, apparently following an inheritance dispute, that he was in the house.

His family stormed the residence, a few meters from theirs, and found the shocked man, now aged 45, under a pile of hay. The alleged culprit, a 61-year-old doorman working in El Guedid, was taken into police custody after trying to flee.

“It’s a real tragedy and we thank God that we were able to find our son,” one of Mr. Ben Omran’s uncles, Karim Rgueb, told local media El Djazair N1, in comments reported by The National .

Mr Reggab confirmed aspects of the story, including that a family dog ​​was killed two weeks after Omar disappeared. The culprit is suspected of being Omar’s kidnapper, who allegedly killed him to silence his complaints outside his home.

Omar’s cousin continues: “The owner uses it thinking it’s a stable. It’s about 100 meters away, just 100 meters (away) on the same street.

“The dog frequented the home of the owner of this residence for over a week – and this story was confirmed by all of Omar’s friends and even those closest to the family – until he was killed two weeks later.”

Those who read Omar’s story wonder why, for more than 25 years, he did not try to escape. Algerian media reported that he told those close to him that he was under a “spell”.

Mr Reggab said: “This case is confusing. The (sheepfold) belongs to the residence and he has a few sheep. There are piles of hay and Omar was covered in all this hay.

“Even when we asked him why you didn’t scream or try to resist or leave the house etc, his answer was very simple. He literally said, “I wasn’t even able to talk or even walk. »

Omar is from the town of El Guedid, near Djelfa, about 240 kilometers south of Algiers, the Algerian capital.
This is the area where Omar was found. His cousin said he was held in a “warehouse” type building that was used to house sheep.
Residents were seen gathering in the street near where the discovery was made earlier this week.

Algeria’s Justice Ministry said the investigation was still ongoing, adding that the victim was receiving medical and psychological care after the crime, which it described as “heinous.”

Tragically, Omar’s mother died in 2013 without ever knowing the truth about what happened to her son. She had asked on television for information about what had happened to her son, according to the Algerian newspaper L’Expression.

Mr. Reggab said that, contrary to earlier reports, Omar did not learn that his mother had died while in captivity.

He added: “She said: ‘I always feel like my son is in… El Guedid.’ It was a great sadness even though she had the feeling that her son was not far from her.

A neighbor of the kidnapped man told Algerian television channel Bilad: “His poor mother died while he was in captivity, without knowing what had happened to him, without knowing that all this time he was really by his side.”

Prosecutors in Djelfa, a mountain town of about 500,000 people about 230 kilometers south of Algiers, the coastal capital, said Omar would receive psychological care after being rescued as they promised to bringing justice.

“The general public prosecutor’s office of Djelfa informs that on May 12 at 8 p.m. local time, it found the victim Omar B, aged 45, in the case of his neighbor BA, aged 61”, we indicate in a communicated.

His family is believed to have thought him dead, killed in the Algerian civil war that raged more than 20 years ago. Relatives claim dog was poisoned after it started smelling Omar nearby
Omar’s discovery, more than a quarter of a century after his alleged abduction, could mean he is one of the world’s longest-serving prisoners.
A press release published by the Algerian Ministry of Justice (photo) promised that Omar would receive psychological care and that the perpetrator of the crime would be judged “severely”.

An official from the Djelfa court reportedly declared: “Two days ago, on May 12, 2024, the general prosecutor’s office received, through the regional directorate of the national gendarmerie of El Jadid, a complaint against an anonymous person affirming that the complainant’s brother, Omar Bin Omran, who has been missing for around thirty years, is in the house of one of his neighbors, inside a sheepfold.

“Following this report, the public prosecutor at the Idrisiya court in the province of Djelfa ordered the national gendarmerie to open a thorough investigation and agents went to the house in question.

“The missing person was found and the suspect, the 61-year-old owner of the house, was arrested.”

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 investigation is completed.”

The authorities promised that “the author of this heinous crime” would be judged “severely”.

The detained man is believed to work as a civil servant and lived alone – but Algerian media suggested he was regularly seen buying enough food for two people.

Algeria’s civil war raged for a decade starting in 1992, as the government sought to repel attacks by armed Islamist rebel groups following a military coup on the eve of the country’s elections.