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Royal Dutch Shell Plc. com: 2 Filipino Oil Workers Freed in Nigeria

From The NEW YORK TIMES
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: June 25, 2006
Filed at 8:10 p.m. ET

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria (AP) — Two Filipino oil workers kidnapped in Nigeria’s southern oil delta were released Sunday after five days in captivity, a state government spokesman said.

The freed hostages were brought to Port Harcourt — the hub of Nigeria’s oil industry — Sunday afternoon and handed over to a Philippines embassy representative by Nigerian officials.

”We thank God you were released to us unconditionally and unharmed,” state government representative Odein Ajumogobia told the men. The hostages looked tired but relieved.

Unidentified gunmen seized the two oil-industry employees Tuesday as they inspected barges in the delta where most of the African oil giant’s petroleum is pumped, officials said then. They were working for Petroleum Geo-Services, an Oslo, Norway-based oil-field services company.

Local government spokesman Emmanuel Okah said he had no further information about where the hostages were released or who had abducted the men. Company officials could not be reached for comment.

Kidnappings in the restive Niger Delta have been common in recent months with militants using the hostages to bargain for a greater share of the wealth from Africa’s largest crude producer. Some groups have asked for money and others for freedom for imprisoned comrades. Most of the kidnappings have ended peacefully.

The largest militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, had said it had no role in the latest abduction. Earlier this month, MEND kidnapped five South Korean contract workers from a Shell gas plant. MEND released the workers after just a day, citing an appeal by the jailed militant leader they had hoped to free through the kidnapping.

Attacks on oil pipelines and kidnappings have cut Nigerian oil production by more than 20 percent this year, adding to the upward pressure on world prices.

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