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German Hostages Freed in Nigeria

All six hostages, including two German oil engineers, taken hostage by ethnic Ijaw militants in a volatile part of southern Nigeria, were released unharmed Saturday, a regional government spokesman said. "The deputy governor has sent someone to the area this morning to secure the release of the hostages, and after having been received and welcomed to the government palace, they have been handed over to the management of their company," said Preye Warowei, spokesman for the government of Bayelsa state. The four local and two German employees of Bilfinger Gas and Oil Services, were captured at sea on Wednesday by Ijaw youths complaining that the Shell oil company had reneged on a memorandum promising to contribute to local economic development. Warowei said the hostages had "confirmed they have not been maltreated," and that there was no violence. "They just talk about the psychological trauma they have experienced. "They were released unconditionally," he added. "No ransom was paid." According to Warowei, the kidnappers said the volatile Niger Delta region. Activists in the delta have carried out several such kidnappings, accusing the foreign oil companies of polluting the environment of the southern coastal states of Nigeria and failing to put wealth back into region. Patterson Ogon, head of the Ijaw Council for Human Rights, a non-government organization based in the Niger Delta, said the men were released after "people of good will" stepped in to mediate.

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