Anowar thought he had only minutes to live
“I thought they would kill us in five or 10 minutes...I started reciting Suras...I felt sad thinking of my children's future.”
These thoughts flashed across Anowar Hossain's mind in March 6 while two unidentified armed, masked militants were abducting him and another 10 staff of an Austrian company after forcing their way into a camp near an oilfield at Al Ghani, south of Libya's Sirte.
With rising political violence, Value Added Oilfield Services (VAOS) Ltd had been shifting staff elsewhere for the last couple of months from an initial 60.
Anowar of Noakhali and his colleague Helal Uddin of Jamalpur were not even supposed to be there at that time had their driver not been absent, which prompted cancellation of their plan to say Jummah prayers at a mosque some three kilometres away.
Talking to The Daily Star at his brother's residence in the capital's Uttara on Tuesday a day after returning home, he said to have heard explosions and seen fire in the oilfield, within two or three minutes of which the abductors arrived.
Without questioning orders, the 11 boarded with their captors a VAOS microbus, which a third militant drove towards the Sahara desert for some two kilometres before letting off two Libyan staff.
Later they joined 30 to 35 microbuses and jeeps flying flags with Arabic letters and carrying armed, masked men speaking in the same language with wireless communication devices.
Travelling some 20 miles, they put the Muslims, Anowar, Helal and a Ghanian, in one vehicle and the remaining four Filipinos, one Austrian and one Czechoslovakian in another, keeping both at the convoy's centre.
After several hundred kilometres, they stopped for the night in the desert, the three saying their Asr and Maghrib prayers with their captors but warned of severe consequence if they tried to escape.
Though assured of being releasing in two or three days, the three had another fear, a botched rescue effort which could get them killed. Moreover, the next morning the non-Muslim staff were nowhere to be seen.
The three were kept in different buildings, in one of which they were kept locked in a room for three days, near Sirte for the next 11 days and in the desert for six days, always fed and behaved with and told to pray properly.
On the 18th night they were kept in a madrasa and the next day, March 24, handed 50 Libyan dinars each and released.
The Ghanaian called up his brother, another VAOS staff, and they went to a hospital. Asked by VAOS to rescue them, the local army took and kept them in Misrata for seven more days till April 2 when they were allowed to travel to VAOS's Tripoli office.
The next day, they were sent to the Malta head office from where they returned home. Neither Anowar nor Helal could imagine that they would be kept alive and return back home to their families.
Around 40 Bangladeshis used to work for VAOS three years back when Anowar, a sub-engineer, and Helal joined.
They say some six to seven Bangladeshis continue working for VAOS in Libya.