Filipino oil workers freed in Nigeria

Nigerian kidnappers have freed two Filipino oil workers, five days after seizing them in the southern Niger Delta where a six-month wave of abductions and attacks has crippled Africa's biggest oil industry.

    Nigeria's oil industry has been hit by a wave of kidnappings

    Spokesmen for Rivers state, where the men were captured on Tuesday by six gunmen in a speedboat, gave no details on the kidnappers or their demands. Abductions for ransom are common in the delta but details of payments are never made public.
       
    "The hostages have just been released and they have been handed over to the vice-consul of the Philippines in Nigeria," said Blessing Nwikinna, a spokesman for Rivers state, on Sunday. He added that the men were in good health.
       
    The Niger Delta produces all of Nigeria's 2.4 million barrels of oil daily, but impoverished local communities have seen little benefit from decades of oil production. This has caused an increasingly violent backlash against the industry.

    Attacks
       
    The militant group the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which demands greater local control of oil wealth, has staged bloody attacks on oil facilities that have shut down a quarter of Nigeria's output since February.
       
    MEND, which has kidnapped and released a total of 18 foreign oil workers this year, said it was not involved in the abduction of the Filipinos.
       
    The two men were under contract to Norwegian-based oil services company Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS).
       
    "The two men are now undergoing a routine medical examination in Port Harcourt and will be reunited with their families in the Philippines as soon as possible," PGS said on its Web site.
       
    PGS gave no details on how the release had been obtained.
       
    Oil companies deny paying money to obtain the release of staff kidnapped in the Niger Delta, but security analysts and local activists say the practice is common and fuels a cycle of violence.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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