Nigerian security forces have freed 19 foreign oil workers who were being held hostage in militant camps in the Niger Delta.
Timothy Antigha is the spokesman of the Joint Military Task Force (JTF), which freed the hostages. He says the nighttime attack on the militant camps produced the desired results.
“The operation happened at one of the creeks in Rivers State. Those we rescued had at various times been abducted from oil fields near Ikot Abasi in Akwa Ibom State. The others were abducted from Mobil fields and also there were four workers from Julius Berger who were kidnapped on their way to Lagos by sea.”
Lt. Col. Atigha says those rescued were from different countries and were employed by oil firms in the Delta, including two Americans, two French nationals, two Indonesians and one Canadian.
He says the operation met little resistance from the militants and the soldiers were under strict orders to minimize casualties, especially on civilians or militants who surrendered.
“There was some kind of resistance. They did not just hand over their victims to us; there was an exchange of gunfire. It was when it became obvious that the JTF was determined and resolved towards ensuring that we put an end to these acts of brigandage and criminality in the Niger Delta that one of the persons who had the hostages in his custody raised a white flag that he was willing to turn in this hostages.”
The main militant group – MEND, which kidnapped the oil workers – says it is fighting for more equitable distribution of the regions oil wealth. But the government says it is a criminal gang, kidnapping mainly foreigners for ransom.