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American Hostages Released in Nigeria

Four American oil workers kidnapped in Nigeria this month have been released. Officials confirmed the release Thursday and said the four men have been handed over to their employers.

Nigerian officials say no ransom was paid for the release of the hostages. The new governor of Delta state, Emmanuel Uduaghan, took personal charge of the negotiations and subsequent release of the men.

Emma Amanzie, the only journalist who met with the Americans while they were in captivity and who covered their release, says they were very relieved.

"They were happy but the signs of the suffering they faced is visible on their faces and their bodies," she said. "For them, they want to rush back as soon as possible, to their families in America. They are so happy that they are out. They passed through a lot of things which they cannot just say now. They are shocked, they are still dazed."

More than 40 unidentified gunmen, armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, seized the men from a construction vessel off Nigeria's oil-rich southern coast. Some Nigerian security personnel guarding the facility were hurt in the attack.

Growing violence in the Niger Delta has forced a 25 percent drop in petroleum exports from Nigeria, Africa's largest oil exporter.

Newly installed President Umaru Yar'Adua has appealed for an end to the violence. The new leader has promised to tackle the region's long-standing grievances.

Nearly 200 foreigners, most of them oil workers, have been kidnapped in the region since the beginning of 2006.