Nigerian military frees 19 hostages: security sources

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Nigeria's military on Wednesday freed 19 hostages in an operation in the country's main oil-producing region, including Nigerians and foreigners, two security sources said.

"We've got confirmed reports that, yes, all 19 have been reported freed," one of the security sources said.

Another security source also said they had been released. Those released included two French, two Americans, two Indonesians, a Canadian and Nigerians, the sources said.

The victims were all taken hostage in recent raids on oil facilities in the country's Niger Delta region, the heart of one of the world's largest oil industries.

France's foreign minister had earlier confirmed that the two French nationals were freed.

"Michele Alliot-Marie is pleased with the release of the two Frenchmen who had been taken hostage, along with five other people, on an oil platform in Nigeria overnight November 7-8," a statement said.

Nigeria's main militant group MEND had claimed responsibility for kidnapping 14 of the hostages.

A spokesman for a joint military and police force in the Niger Delta declined to provide details, saying only that an operation had been underway and a briefing would be held on Thursday.

The military had at the weekend warned of action in the Niger Delta and urged residents living near militant camps to clear out.

© 2010 AFP

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