English.news.cn 2012-11-01 16:30:55
LAGOS, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- Six Russian sailors and an Estonian national working with a French oil and gas company and abducted by gunmen off coast of Nigeria's oil Delta have regained their freedom, a diplomatic source told Xinhua on Thursday.
"Yes, they have been released unharmed," the source said in a brief response to Xinhua.
The source declined further comments, saying this is a very delicate and confidential matter.
The Russian Embassy in Nigeria also confirmed the release in a tweet message that the crew of Bourbon Liberty 249, hijacked by Nigerian pirates on October 15, have been released and will return home soon.
"Russia appreciates the contribution of Nigeria, France, Luxembourg and Estonia to releasing the crew of Bourbon Liberty 249," it added.
On Oct. 15, pirates kidnapped six Russian citizens and one Estonian national, leaving the other nine crew members onboard a ship which was servicing hydrocarbon extraction platforms in the shelf off the southern coast of Nigeria.
The Bourbon Liberty 249, belonging to a French company, was used to tow anchors for oil rigs or mobile drilling rigs.
The vessel's crew worked on maintenance of oil platforms off Nigeria's shores.
Piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea, running from Guinea on Africa's northwestern tip to Angola in the south, have been increasing in recent years, with Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, recording 293 cases of sea robbery and pirate attacks between 2003 and 2008.
In February, Nigeria and 10 other countries including the United States, Belgium and Spain launched a naval exercise against piracy, oil theft, smuggling and other maritime security challenges plaguing the West and Central African waters, especially the Gulf of Guinea.
Other navies taking part in the exercise were Cameroun, Gabon, Ghana, the Republic of Congo, Benin, Sao Tome and Principe and Togo.
Source: Xinhuanet, Ch.