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This Day (Lagos): Nigeria: Niger Delta: Chinese Hostages Regain Freedom

February 4, 2007
Posted to the web February 5, 2007
Segun James, Yenegoa And Fidelia Okwuonu

Nine Chinese oil workers who were abducted by militants in a dawn raid at their work location by militants last week, were yesterday released unharmed.

The nine who work for the Chinese National Petroleum Company (CNPC), were kidnapped in an operation saw a militant losing his life and which the Bayelsa State Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Hafiz Ringim, said was an armed robbery raid as the militants broke into the company’s account department and made away with the January salary of the workers.
The militants, THISDAY recalls had invaded the operation yard of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) at Sagbama in Sagbama local government area of Bayelsa State at about six am from the Farcados river in two boats, and in well coordinated operation in which they divided themselves into two group.

While one team invaded the expatriates’ living quarters where the Chinese nationals were rounded up, the other attacked the accounts department of the company where the January salaries of the workers were carted away.

In the ensuing melee that followed the attack, some of the Chinese nationals were said to have ran into the surrounding forest while some others jumped into the river in the bid to escape from the invaders.

But in the operation that took almost 30 minutes, the soldiers on guard duties were also forced to flee for their dear lives from the superior fire power of the invaders, but were lucky to mow down a greedy militant who had come back to pick another bag of money after his colleagues had left with the nine hostages.

Confirming the release of the hostages, Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government, Dr. Boladei Igali, said no ransom was paid and that the workers have been handed over to their company officials.

The oil workers, who were seized last month during a raid on the office of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) while they were doing a study for the Royal Dutch Shell in the Sagbama area of Bayelsa state, were reportedly released unconditionally in good health.

Officials of the Chinese foreign ministry had confirmed the release and added that the workers are expected to return to China in a short time.

The spokeswoman of the ministry, Jiang Yu said yesterday thet “The ministry hopes overseas Chinese enterprises and personnel will further raise their awareness of safety and risk and step up precautionary measures so as to ensure their citizen’s safety”. The release came during the Chinese president, Hu Jinato’s, eight-country tour of Africa aimed at boosting trade ties, though Nigeria was not included in this tour.

Hu visited Nigeria last year as part of Beijing’s efforts to secure energy and other resources for its booming economy.

In a separate incident in Rivers State on January 18, five Chinese telecommunications workers were released two weeks after being abducted for ransom in Nigeria.

Nigeria has seen a spate of abductions of foreign workers, who have been held by different armed groups in Africa’s top oil producer, where militancy has surged over the past year.

Foreign workers in the oil industry have been the target of the armed militants seeking a greater share of Nigeria’s oil wealth. Oil industry executives see the delta region descending further into anarchy as Nigeria’s landmark general elections set for April approach.
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