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Two German, Four Nigerian Hostages Freed in Nigeria

THE NEW YORK TIMES: Two German, Four Nigerian Hostages Freed in Nigeria

19 June 2005

By REUTERS

LAGOS (Reuters) – Two German and four Nigerian oil workers kidnapped by militants in Nigeria’s southern delta were released on Saturday after three days in captivity, a state government spokesman said.

The six employees of oil services company Bilfinger-Berger, a contractor for Royal Dutch Shell were abducted on Wednesday by a little-known ethnic group pressing the oil giant for jobs and development in the impoverished wetlands region.

“The six were handed over to the deputy governor by the king and the people of the community. They are OK apart from the psychological trauma they have been through,” a state government spokesman said by phone from Yenegoa, the Bayelsa state capital.

They were released unconditionally after negotiations with the authorities, he added.

The Iduwini National Movement for Peace and Development said the abductions had been aimed at putting pressure on Shell to deliver on its promises in the Iduwini area. The Iduwini are a clan within the Ijaw, the dominant ethnic group in the Niger Delta.

Shell, which accounts for nearly half of OPEC member Nigeria’s production, said it had signed an agreement with nine communities in the area in 2002 to fund a series of development projects.

A company spokesman said some of the projects had been completed while others would be carried out between 2006 and 2011 because of the amount of capital required.

The spokesman said that before the kidnappings, Shell had already been planning an “engagement session” with the communities to explain to them why the projects would take so long to complete.

Conflicts between oil multinationals and ethnic militants are common in the Niger Delta, which pumps almost all of Nigeria’s output of 2.3 millions barrel per day. The West African country is the world’s eighth-biggest oil exporter.

Many communities in the impoverished wetlands believe they are not getting a fair share of the huge riches being extracted from their tribal lands.

Militant groups often demand money and services from companies, under threat of violence, but usually release their hostages after negotiations.

In December, a group calling itself the Iduwini Youths kidnapped a Croatian and 15 Nigerian oil workers from another Shell contractor. They were all released unharmed following the intervention of the local authorities.

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