French oil hostages return home from Nigeria

12th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Three French oil workers who were kidnapped by pirates off Nigeria flew back into Paris on Friday, freed after being held hostage for more than six weeks, airport officials said.

The men arrived at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport on board a scheduled Air France flight from the southern Nigerian oil city of Port Harcourt, and were taken in charge by officials before journalists could meet them.

An official said that they appeared to be in good health, but would be taken to a hospital for a medical check-up following their ordeal.

In an email message, a spokesman for the Nigerian separatist rebel group MEND said: "Owing to their generally poor state of health, we were compelled to release them on humanitarian grounds."

But the French news magazine Le Point reported on its website that the hostages' employer, shipping services firm Bourbon, had paid of ransom of "less than 150,000 dollars" (110,000 euros) for their release.

The company refused to confirm or deny the report, and managing director Jacques de Chateauvieux thanked the French and Nigerian authorities for their work in securing the men's safe release.

Two more French nationals were among seven expatriate oil workers kidnapped on Monday in a similar raid by gunmen equipped with speedboats against an offshore oil platform and supply boat.

A faction of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has also claimed responsibility for that raid.

© 2010 AFP

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