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10 Aug, 2007 21:29

Released hostages return to Moscow from Nigeria

Six Russians kidnapped in Nigeria more than two months ago returned safely to Moscow on Friday. They were released unharmed earlier in the week without any ransom being paid. Five of the six are employees of the Russian aluminium company RUSAL.

The four men and two women are said to be in good health, but they are expected to undergo a series of medical checks over the next few days.

The handover took place just a day earlier at the Russian Embassy in Lagos. Sivestin Oliyo, the Governor of Rivers State where the kidnapping occurred said, “The release of Russian hostages is a triumph of justice, a victory of good over evil.”

“Russia and Nigeria have similar positions on key international issues and this incident will not affect our relations,” Igor Melikhov, Russian Ambassador to Nigeria, commented.
The attack took place on June 3. The militants came in the middle of the night, killed one of the local guards and blew up the door to the apartment bloc with the Russian employees. They took six hostages – four men and two women.

There were reports the militants demanded $US 500,000 ransom. RUSAL, however, denies all rumours of a ransom payment and says this release is a result of a joint effort between Russian and Nigerian authorities.

Abductions in Nigeria happen regularly. The country is rich in natural resources but is one of the poorest in the world. Its reserves are often run or developed by foreign companies and foreign employees are a frequent target for such attacks conducted by numerous militant groups.

Although the hostages are released in the majority of cases, the Nigerian authorities say it rarely happens so soon.

“I think it was a combined effort of both the company RUSAL and of the Russian government, which was quite instrumental in convincing the captors to release the Russian citizens. First of all, this should be a lesson for the company and for other Russian companies working in all sort of dangerous spots on Earth. Nigeria being as effective business spot as it is, is at the same time quite dangerous. It is well-known that many people from different countries were taken hostage in Nigeria and the situation was not always luckily resolved, or they could be released after a certain sum of money was paid to the kidnappers. So, Russian companies working abroad should pay more attention to protecting Russian citizens working there,” Vyacheslav Nikonov, political analyst, said.

However, Nigerian newspapers say that an organisation called Idjo Tribe Youth Council played a crucial role in the release of the hostages. According to reports, the secured captives were freed after several hours of negotiations.

“Foreigners should not be afraid to come to Nigeria and work here. Nigerian people treat them very well. Hopefully, these kidnappings won’t discourage those planning to come here,” Chris Ekyor, Spokesperson of the Idjo Tribe Council, stated.

But despite these reassurances, RUSAL and other international companies will need to take additional steps to protect their people.