Foreign oil workers among 19 hostages freed by the Joint Task Force, JTF, Thursday, recounted their ordeal in the hands of their captors describing it as “shocking”, while a government official said no ransom was paid for their release.
The JTF freed the 19 hostages in an operation on Wednesday. The victims included American, French, Indonesian, Canadian and Nigerian nationals.
The hostages were presented to journalists on Thursday, with the military saying they had been rescued from a militant camp, and appeared in relatively good health.
A Canadian hostage nursing a gunshot wound to his foot which he said resulted from a ricocheted bullet said the men saved rainwater for washing and drinking.
“It’s a shocking experience and I wouldn’t want anybody to ever go through such a thing,” said Robert Croke, who was abducted in a raid on a support vessel and Transocean-owned oil rig last week.
An American oil worker taken in the same raid as Croke in the early hours of November 8 said the crisis was “like being in a prison.”
“I can’t imagine anyone ever having to go through this situation,” said James Robertson, who appeared weary but in good spirits.
A Nigerian military official said no ransom was paid for the release of the 19 hostages, who were believed to have been abducted in three separate incidents. A number of militant camps had been “taken over” by the military in recent days, he said.
“These gentlemen were recovered from Obese Camp in Rivers State,” said Major General Charles Omoregie, referring to a camp said to be named after a militant leader.
“Not a dime was paid for the release of these gentlemen. It was a sustained raid. We don’t go into negotiations.”
He said there had been no casualties.
The rescue came after a series of kidnappings in the turbulent Niger Delta, with the military having threatened action to clear out militant camps.
Nigeria’s main militant group MEND had claimed responsibility for kidnapping 14 of the hostages. Those released were believed taken in three separate incidents.
Eight of the hostages were believed taken in an attack on an ExxonMobil facility, while seven others were kidnapped last week in a raid on a support vessel and Transocean oil rig overseen by Afren.
The remaining four were believed to be employees for Julius Berger taken in another incident, security sources said.
Meanwhile, an aide to President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr Hassan Tukur has said the rescue of 19 foreign and local hostages is a turning point for Nigeria’s security, as government pledged more tough actions.
“Criminal elements who attack oil installations and kidnap individuals for personal reasons will not be tolerated,” Tukur told Reuters.
“He (Jonathan) is strong… It (freeing of hostages) is a turning point. Anyone who thinks they can hold the government hostage should rethink,” he added.