Kidnapped French oil workers freed in Nigeria

2010-11-12 10:16

Paris – Three French oil workers who were kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Nigeria had flown back to Paris after being held hostage for more than six weeks, airport officials said today.

The men arrived at Charles de Gaulle on board a scheduled Air France flight from the southern Nigerian oil city of Port Harcourt and were taken in charge by officials before journalists could meet them.

An official said they appeared to be in good health, but would be taken to a hospital for a medical check-up following their ordeal.

In an email message, a spokesperson for the Nigerian separatist rebel group the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said: “Owing to their generally poor state of health, we were compelled to release them on humanitarian grounds.”

But the French news magazine Le Point reported on its website that the hostages’ employer, shipping services firm Bourbon, had paid a ransom of “less than $150 000 dollars (R1 million)” for their release.

The company refused to confirm or deny the report, and managing director Jacques de Chateauvieux thanked the French and Nigerian authorities for their work in securing the men’s safe release.

Meanwhile, two more French nationals were among seven expatriate oil workers kidnapped on Monday in a similar raid by gunmen equipped with speedboats against an offshore oil platform and supply boat.

A faction of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has also claimed responsibility for that raid.

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