Gunmen free Russian sailors kidnapped in Nigeria

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Two Russian sailors kidnapped a month ago in Nigeria's restive oil rich Niger Delta have been freed, an intelligence chief said on Wednesday.

Ivanoc Igov and Pukki Andrey, who were seized from their cargo vessel on August 11 off Nigeria's main export terminal Bonny Fairway Bouy, were released on Monday.

Security officers recovered from an agent of the abductors, a 60,000-dollar ransom that had been paid for the release of the pair. The agent was arrested.

Director of the intelligence services in the oil hub of Rivers State, Douglas Dogo, told reporters the Russians had been held by the same "notorious militant leader" who in early July kidnapped and later freed 12 foreign seafarers -- among them Germans and Russians. Security forces are hunting down the gang leader.

The two Russians were intercepted and captured by 15 gunmen off their Netherlands Antilles-registered vessel UAL Tycoon. They were sailing from Cameroon to Nigeria's southern port of Onne.

Hundreds of people, both locals and foreigners, most but not all of them linked to the oil sector, have been kidnapped in the restive Niger Delta in recent years.

Most are released after a few days or weeks in captivity, very often after the payment of a ransom.

© 2010 AFP

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