Nigerian militants release last-remaining foreign hostages, officials declares

Militants in Nigeria 's oil-rich southern delta on Monday released their last remaining foreign hostages two Americans and one Briton more than five weeks after the oil-industry workers were kidnapped, officials said.

Abel Oshevire, spokesman for the southern Delta state government, said Americans Cody Oswalt, Russell Spell and Briton John Hudspith were released just before dawn and were now with the local governor, James Ibori.

"They are here with us now and are all in good health," Oshevire told reporters.

The militants, responsible for a wave of recent attacks in southern Nigeria , took nine foreign oil workers hostage Feb. 18 from a barge owned by Houston-based oil services company Willbros Group Inc., which was laying pipeline in the delta for Royal Dutch Shell. The group released six of the captives after 12 days.

The last three hostages could be seen from a distance as they greeted officials but the freed men didn't immediately address reporters.

The new militant group has targeted the oil-industry in the world's eighth-largest producer of crude, blowing up oil installations and cutting production by 20 percent, sending prices higher on international markets.

The militants say their larger goal is a bigger cut of the oil revenues held by the federal government for their southern Niger Delta region, which remains deeply poor despite the oil pumped from beneath them.

The hostage takers had demanded the release of jailed ethnic Ijaw leaders and the payment by Royal Dutch Shell of US$1.5 billion (1.26 billion euros) to compensate Ijaw communities for oil pollution a demand that has also come from Nigerian lawmakers.

Ibori said no ransom was paid, adding: "Now that they have been released, the pertinent issues raised by the youths on the Niger Delta condition will have to be addressed," said the governor, James Ibori.

Foreign oil workers are frequently taken hostage in Nigeria , and most are released unharmed, reports the AP.


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