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news24.com: 16 hostages freed in Nigeria

04/10/2006 14:52  – (SA)  

Lagos – Niger Delta militants on Wednesday released 16 remaining oil employees of a sub-contractor to Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Shell, two days after kidnapping a group of workers, said an industry spokesperson.

According to the spokesperson: “I can confirm that the remaining hostages were released this morning. They were 24 or so in number. Nine were released yesterday.”

On Monday, about 70 men attacked a site belonging to the Royal Dutch Shell company in neighbouring Rivers State, killing 14 soldiers and kidnapping 25 workers.

An industry official, a spokesperson for a major oil group, said: “The efforts paid off this morning when the remaining oil workers were released unhurt”, adding that no ransoms were paid.

‘The men were upbeat’

He said the men were seized to “serve as a shield for the separatist fighters in their face-off with the Nigerian security agents.

“The men were upbeat. No harm was done to any of them.”

Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC), a grouping of several separatist movements.

The JRC said the attack was aimed at obtaining the immediate release of Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo Asari, the imprisoned leader of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force who was on treason charges in Abuja.

Wednesday’s release came just as news filtered in that five expatriate employees of a sub-contractor to ExxonMobil were abducted and two Nigerian security guards shot dead in southern Akwa Ibom State late on Tuesday.

Romanian kidnapped

Romania’s ambassador to Nigeria, Emil Rapcea, said that one of the kidnap victims was a Romanian national.

He said: “According to unconfirmed information, one of the five workers abducted is Romanian”, adding he was awaiting confirmation from Nigerian authorities.

The nationalities of the other four were not known.

An industry source said the five were seized by armed men who stormed their residential quarters near Mobil exports terminal at Eket.

A company spokesman said the kidnapped workers were employees of a sub-contractor to Mobil, adding that oil exports were not halted.

The Niger delta had seen a resurgence of violence since January by separatist militants seeking local control of the country’s oil resources.

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