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International Herald Tribune: Oil company says 6 kidnapped foreign workers were released in Nigeria

The Associated Press
Published: October 30, 2007

LAGOS, Nigeria: Six foreign oil workers who were kidnapped from an offshore oil field in the Niger Delta were released Tuesday after three days in captivity, officials said.

The Indian and Polish workers are in good health, Italian energy giant Eni SpA said.

Gunmen in speedboats kidnapped the workers at dawn Friday from the Mystras, some 50 miles (80 kilometers) offshore. Another Nigerian worker was reported to have been wounded in the leg in the attack.

The hostages were freed unconditionally and no ransom was paid, police spokeswoman Ireju Barasua said, confirming the release.

The Mystras is capable of producing 80,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Militants have kidnapped more than 150 foreigners this year to press their demands for local control of oil revenues. The attacks since late 2005 have cut Nigeria’s regular output by about 20 percent, helping send crude prices toward all-time highs.

Locals have for years demanded a greater share of the wealth in Africa’s largest crude producer, and the region remains desperately poor despite its great natural bounty.

The government of President Umaru Yar’Adua has stepped up efforts to maintain calm in the Niger Delta, and violence has waned since he took power May 29. But the latest attacks could set back plans for formal talks between the government and the main armed groups.

A militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack.

Also this week, MEND said it was responsible for an attack Sunday on an offshore oil field operated by Royal Dutch Shell. Militants kidnapped seven workers — Nigerian, British, Croatian and South African — but released them after two days.

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

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