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Terror in the Desert: This World

Sat Aug 31, 9.15-10.15pm, BBC2

The terrorist attack on Algeria’s In Amenas gas plant this year left 39 workers dead, and traumatised surviving hostages of all nationalities. This sober, absorbing doc puts together the story of the attack from beginning to end, piecing together in chilling detail those three days as experienced by various survivors who here outline their close brushes with death with dignified, quiet clarity.

Juxtaposed with their stories is unique unseen footage, shot on mobile phones during the siege by workers in the plant, news footage of the event, interviews with family members, and footage of the terrorists. All this combines to create a tense hour that shows the best and worst of humanity; extraordinary escapes by foreign staff and visiting VIPs achieved with the selfless, brave help of Algerian co-workers; horrific treatment at the hands of the terrorists, who forced hostages to wear explosives round their necks; terrifying attacks by the armed forces trying to rescue them, and always the dread of imminent death.

It’s a hard, anxious watch, but one that honours many of the dead, and will hopefully help make such facilities safer for their workers in the future – although as co-owner BP doesn’t plan to hold its enquiry until 2014 at the earliest, that safer future could be a long way off. Look out for C4’s take on these events in ‘Siege in the Sahara’ on Tue, September 3.