Three oil workers kidnapped off Nigeria released
LAGOS (AFP) – Three crew members of a cargo ship kidnapped by heavily-armed pirates last month off Nigeria have been released, the company said Monday.
Neither the company, Britain-based Carisbrooke Shipping, nor Nigeria’s security forces had previously confirmed the February 7 attack and the nationalities of the sailors have not been disclosed.
The firm “is pleased and relieved to report that the three officers who were taken from the vessel by armed men 80 miles off the south coast of Nigeria in February and held hostage, have now been released,” a statement said.
They were “safe and in good spirits” at the time of their release on Monday, the statement further said, thanking “governments, government agencies and other professionals who assisted in bringing this difficult situation to a close.”
The kidnapping of oil workers, typically expatriates, is common in the oil-producing Niger Delta region, with the hostages often released following a ransom payment.
The companies targeted and the security forces rarely comment on the circumstances surrounding the release of hostages, including whether a ransom was paid.
Carisbrooke said the Esther C vessel had been “ransacked” by well-armed pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, a region that includes the waters off Benin, Nigeria and Togo, which has been called an emerging piracy hub.
There have also been a series of kidnappings in northern Nigeria, claimed by an Islamist group called Ansaru, but those attacks are considered a different phenomenon.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and top oil producer, roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and mostly Christian south.