Two German employees of a Nigerian construction company have been rescued and released by militant group MEND. It's the first time the group has gotten involved to help resolve a kidnapping.
The Niger Delta is a dangerous zone for foreign workers
According to the German foreign ministry, two German workers kidnapped in Nigeria over a month ago have now been released. In a statement issued Friday, Aug. 15, ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said the two are receiving medical treatment and are doing well "considering the circumstances" and are in "good physical condition."
"The federal government is very relieved by their release," he added.
Employed by Julius Berger, a local affiliate of German construction company Bilfinger Berger, the two Germans were kidnapped on July 11 at Emohua in Rivers state in the Niger Delta, an area notorious for kidnappings. Around 15 unidentified gunmen travelling in armored jeeps accompanied by 28 soldiers seized the workers of the country's largest construction firm. The violent kidnappings prompted Julius Berger to suspend all of its operations in the delta. Despite the safe release of its workers, the company is sticking to its decision to pull out of the area, a spokesperson for the company told DPA news agency.
Act of kindness
MEND is responsible for several attacks on oil companies operating in the area
Nigeria's most prominent militant group, The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) rescued the hostages from the armed gang on Thursday, reported Reuters news service. Itself responsible for numerous attacks on oil companies that have consequently cut a fifth of Nigeria's oil output since early 2006, MEND released the Germans near the oil hub Port Harcourt.
The group, which had announced about a week after the kidnappings that it had identified those responsible and would work to free the hostages, was reportedly motivated to intervene because the two Germans were not employed in the energy sector, but rather were helping to build the delta's infrastructure.
Big player in Nigeria
The company Julius Berger is currently rebuilding the main east-west road across the Niger Delta. With more than 16,000 employees, it is one of the country's biggest private sector employers.
According to Reuters, MEND's rescue operation that concluded with the safe release of the German workers was the first time it had intervened in an act of kidnapping committed by another gang.
Foreign companies weigh profits against inherent dangers
An alarmingly dangerous area for foreigners, more than 200 people have been kidnapped in the Niger Delta since early 2006. Such security problems have prompted numerous foreign firms to pull out of the area, reports AFP. Almost all of the people seized in the Niger Delta to this point, however, have been freed unharmed.