Monday, April 26, 2010

Nigeria: 2 Germans hostages in Nigeria released.


LAGOS, Nigeria — Two German hostages were freed on Saturday in Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta, a volatile region where kidnappings often occur.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement the kidnappers released the two men somewhere near Port Harcourt, the main city tucked among the creeks and rivers of the Niger Delta. Westerwelle said the men were in good condition and remained in Nigeria.

The minister did not say whether his government or the men's employers paid a ransom for their release.

"I thank the crisis committee and the German and Nigerian authorities involved for their untiring work, which made a fast and happy end possible," Westerwelle said.

Unidentified gunmen kidnapped the two men as they visited a beach April 18 along the Imo River in Abia state. The men had started walking back to their car where their driver waited when gunmen seized them.

The two Germans apparently traveled to the area, long known for its instability, without any guards. Typically, foreign oil workers and other expatriates living in the region travel with private security guards or in police escorts.

Militants in the delta have targeted oil workers for kidnapping in the past during their campaign to bring more oil money to a region that suffered environmental damage and economic neglect over 50 years of production. However, criminal gangs increasingly target wealthy Nigerians and politicians for kidnappings, as well as foreigners who stumble into their path.

Attacks in the region have sharply increased global oil prices in the past and could in the future, as Nigeria exported almost 1 million barrels of crude a day to U.S. in January alone, more than Saudi Arabia.

A peace deal with the government that halted fighting for several months now appears to be faltering, especially after militants detonated two car bombs March 15 during a newspaper-sponsored discussion about the amnesty program.

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