Kidnapped Lithuanian skipper unharmed: ministry

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A Lithuanian skipper kidnapped during a raid on his ship off Cameroon last month is unharmed, Vilnius said Wednesday, as the Baltic state works with Russia and other nations to win his release.

"Captain Dmitrij Baskirov is unharmed. Lithuanian authorities are making every effort to free him," Lithuania's foreign ministry said in a statement.

It said it would not disclose any further details in order to ensure the safety of Baskirov, who was abducted on May 16.

Unidentified attackers using a motor boat seized Baskirov during a night-time assault on a Lithuanian refrigerator ship off the port of Douala in Cameroon, his employer confirmed at the time.

Three Russian sailors were also snatched from a cargo vessel.

The kidnappers have demanded a ransom, a Cameroonian source told AFP last month.

On Monday, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said her country was working with Russia to try to win the victims' release.

"Our foreign ministry is in direct contact with Russian authorities and the search is being carried out together," Grybauskaite told reporters.

The foreign ministry said Lithuania's European Union and NATO partners were also involved in the operation.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the main armed militant group in Cameroon's neighbour Nigeria, has denied involvement in the kidnapping but said last month it knew where the men were and that they were in good health.

MEND, which in January called off a three-month truce with government, has in the past claimed responsibility for kidnappings of mostly oil workers and for attacks on oil installations in the region.

MEND has also claimed to have been involved in securing the release of people kidnapped by other militant groups in the region.

© 2010 AFP

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