UK hostage freed in Nigeria

2009-06-12 21:06

Lagos - A British hostage held for over nine months in Nigeria's oil rich south was on Friday handed over to Nigerian government officials, the region's main armed group said.

Matthew Maguire, an oil sector worker, "was handed over to the Nigerian government officials at a secret rendezvous and is currently in the city of Port Harcourt in Rivers state", the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said in an e-mail to the media.

Last week Britain called for Maguire's release after MEND twice failed to honour an earlier undertaking to release him. On one occasion MEND claimed Maguire had refused the offer of freedom.

Maguire and his compatriot Robin Barry Hughes were kidnapped in September 2008.

Hughes was released on April 19 on health grounds.

MEND insists it did not abduct the two men, but rescued them from another, unidentified group.

The past three-and-a-half years have seen an upsurge in kidnappings of local and foreign oil workers in the Niger Delta as well as attacks on oil industry facilities.

MEND has claimed responsibility for many of these attacks.