Omar bin Omran: Algerian man found alive in cellar after more than 25 years

Authorities vow to punish person responsible for 'heinous crime' after man, now 45, is rescued by security forces

Omar bin Omran was unable to speak when he was discovered by security forces only a few hundred metres from his home. Photo: Djelfa Judicial Council
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An Algerian man missing for more than 25 years has been found alive, having reportedly been kidnapped and held in a cellar only a few hundred metres from his family home.

Omar bin Omran, now 45, from the town of El Guedid in Djelfa governorate in northern Algeria, went missing while on his way to a training centre nearby, local media reported.

A video on social media showed the moment security forces discovered him on Sunday. In the footage, Mr bin Omran, who has a long beard, appears to be shivering as he is helped out of the cellar, which was concealed under bales of hay. He was unable to speak.

“The Djelfa Attorney General’s Office informs the public that on May 12 at 8pm local time, it found victim Omar bin Omran, aged 45, in the cellar of his neighbour, BA, aged 61,” prosecutors said.

Officials said he is being treated at a local hospital with only his close relatives allowed to see him.

The owner of the home where Mr bin Omran was found has been arrested. The “perpetrator of this heinous crime” will be punished severely, officials said.

The suspect is understood to have lived alone and worked as a civil servant. His neighbours described him as “a mysterious man” who kept to himself. He is also accused of killing Mr bin Omran's dog.

“This is a true tragedy and we thank God that we were able to find our son,” one of Mr bin Omran's uncles, Karim Rgueb, told local media outlet El Djazair N1.

Mr bin Omran's whereabouts were reportedly revealed on social media by the abductor’s sister amid a dispute in the family over inheritance.

“He spent 28 years without even seeing the sun and he is already going through a lot,” Mr Rgueb said.

A neighbour told the news outlet that the return of Mr bin Omran was “a miracle”. “We thought he was dead, we had no hope.”

Speaking to The National in a voice message, one of Mr bin Omran’s cousins, Khaled Rgueb, said the family had lost hope after scouring the country for him for years

“His brothers and mother kept looking for him for years … in hopes they would find him,” he said. “Eventually they gave up and stopped looking.

“He was able to speak to me and recognise me, his situation is not critical or bad, he is in good shape but he is currently receiving help to reintegrate into society and overcome what he went through,” Mr Rgueb added.

Relatives and neighbours said they thought Mr bin Omran had been killed in the conflict between the Algerian government and insurgents in the 1990s.

“Omar disappeared in 1998 in very mysterious circumstances and in a period when Algeria was going through a difficult security situation,” Mr Rgueb told The National.

He said that relatives thought that Mr Bin Omran was dead and had been buried somewhere.

Mr bin Omran said he used to see his family from the cellar window but was unable to call for help because he was “under some sort of spell” cast by his alleged abductor, local media reported.

His mother, who died in 2007, never lost hope that he was still alive and her dying wish was for authorities to find her son, they said.

Updated: May 17, 2024, 4:02 PM