Nigeria: 3 French hostages freed

2010-11-11 12:42
Paris - Three French citizens who were kidnapped two months ago while working at an oil platform off the coast of Nigeria were released on Wednesday, France's foreign minister and the company said.

French marine services provider Bourbon said the three were being looked after by a company crisis unit in Nigeria and appeared to be in good health "despite difficult conditions while in captivity".

The three were undergoing medical and psychological checks and are expected to return to France within the next few days, the company said in a statement.

The workers and a Thai citizen were kidnapped overnight on September 21-22 aboard the French-flagged vessel Bourbon Alexandre during an attack on an offshore rig run by Addax Petroleum - a subsidiary of China's Sinopec.

The status of the Thai national was not clear. A Nigerian navy spokesperson said on Wednesday he had no information about the hostages being released.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner expressed "very great joy and deep relief" that the three had been released, and said French officials were working with Bourbon to have them brought home.

Bourbon said in its statement that it would not provide details about the hostage-takers' demands, the crew members and the date of their return to France "for reasons of confidentiality".

It was not immediately clear whether a ransom had been paid. Most hostages abducted in the oil-producing region are released without injury after some sort of ransom is paid.

Bourbon employees have been kidnapped in the region in the past.

The release comes two days after two other French citizens, two Americans, two Indonesians and a Canadian were abducted from a platform run by London-based Afren PLC 11 km offshore.

Pirate and militant attacks are common in Nigeria's Niger Delta, an oil-rich region of swamps, mangrove fields and creeks almost the size of South Carolina. The area is one of the top sources of crude for the United States.

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