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International Herald Tribune: 7 oil workers freed in Nigeria after 2 days in captivity, police say

The Associated Press
Published: October 22, 2007

ABUJA, Nigeria: Seven oil workers who were kidnapped from an offshore oil field in the Niger Delta were released Monday after two days in captivity, police said.

The workers — three foreigners and four Nigerians — were seized Saturday night after gunmen in more than 30 speedboats attacked EA field, operated by Royal Dutch Shell. It was the first major attack since the president began a peace process in the region five months ago.

“Yes, they have been released,” Bayelsa state police spokesman Inyebom Inidong told The Associated Press. He had no further details.

The foreign hostages are British, Croatian and South African. Shell originally reported that the South African was Russian.

The Niger Delta has been the scene of frequent disputes between oil companies and communities who have for years demanded a greater share of the wealth of Africa’s largest crude producer. The region remains desperately poor despite its great natural bounty.

 Around 100 foreign workers have been kidnapped since the beginning of the year.

The government of President Umaru Yar’Adua has stepped up efforts to calm the oil-producing region, and violence has waned since he took power May 29. But the latest attacks could set back plans for Yar’Adua to hold formal talks with the main armed groups.

A main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in an e-mail message to The Associated Press that the raid “was indeed carried out by its gallant fighters.”

The group, which threatened last month to resume attacks after one of its leaders was arrested in Angola, also vowed to continue the violence.

“The attacks will continue so that the government will realize that for real peace to prevail, justice must be addressed,” the message said.

The EA field has been closed since February 2006 because of an earlier militant attack, but it had been due to resume operations by the middle of next year.

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/10/22/africa/AF-GEN-Nigeria-Oil-Unrest.php

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