An estimated 120 oil workers, including three Scottish oilmen, who were working at a mobile exploration rig operating in a remote area of Kurdistan, near the border with Turkey, had been trapped inside their compound since Friday when a heavily armed gang from a local village stormed their compound, blocked access to the rig and demanded a ransom of $1 million.
Brock Fettes, a 65 year-old directional engineer from Insch in Aberdeenshire, was one of three Scots who found themselves at the centre of the drama after the armed gang surrounded the drilling rig and ordered the crew to shut down their operations.
And yesterday he told how they had suddenly been allowed to return to work as normal after the incident - described by his employers as a “local community protest” - was resolved.
Mr Fettes, who is due to return home to Scotland next week, was one of three workers on the rig, operated by Texas-based HKN, employed by French oil company Schlumberger.
He said their ordeal had begun on Friday when an armed gang from a local village stormed their compound in a mountainous area of Kurdistan, close to the Turkish border.
Said Mr Fettes: “Some armed men came onto the rig and they forced us to shutdown the operation. They were local villagers. They closed the checkpoint - closed the gate into the area and wouldn’t let us leave for 72 hours or so.
“They were demanding money. It was rumoured it was $1 million.
“While the armed people were here on location we evacuated up to the camp. After they left the location, we came back down to our normal place of business, but we couldn’t work. We had to keep the engines shut off and we couldn’t leave.”
The siege ended without warning on Sunday night. Said Mr Fettes: “I don’t know how it got resolved but last night we were all back to work and now everything is normal.”Mr Brock’s partner Rosie Wilson-Leagas also spoke of her relief at the couple’s home in Aberdeenshire.
She said: “I have still to speak to Brock but I have been told that the situation has been resolved and that everything is fine now. I don’t think he felt in any immediate personal danger. But if you are in any situation where you can’t leave it creates a certain amount of stress.”
Ms Wilson-Leagas said her husband had telephoned her at the weekend and had told her that the compound had been surrounded by an armed gang from the local village.
She continued: “As a general rule they are aware of the fact that everyone out there has got a gun. If you are working in Iraq you are aware that people in every village are armed. You don’t go there unless you accept that fact.”
A Foreign Office spokesman confirmed that the situation had been resolved. He said: “All the workers are safe and well. There was never really a big threat to them. As far as we know this was just a bit of local dispute over pay or something of that ilk.”
A spokeswoman for Schlumberger said: “The three Schlumberger employees that were among a group of oilfield workers present on a rig that was subject to a local community protest in Iraq this weekend are now safe and well.”