- Title: NIGERIA: Korean hostages in Nigeria freed by militants
- Date: 9th June 2006
- Summary: PAN OF RIVER GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS
- Embargoed: 24th June 2006 13:00
- Location: Nigeria
- Country: Nigeria
- Reuters ID: LVA8VD4CD3QW1JB1X1EI1XCLT6BG
- Story Text: Five South Korean gas workers taken hostage in Nigeria were freed in good health on Thursday (June 8) after a plea by the jailed militant leader in whose name they were abducted 40 hours earlier.
Dozens of heavily armed rebels staged a bloody raid on a natural gas plant in the Niger Delta on Wednesday (June 7). They had demanded the release of jailed leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari in exchange for the Koreans' freedom.
The Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), one of three groups involved in the kidnapping, said in an email to media that the Korean prisoners had been released "at the request of Dokubo-Asari".
The abduction was the latest incident in a wave of violence against the energy industry in the delta, where militancy is fuelled by poverty, lawlessness, corruption and struggles for control of a lucrative oil theft business.
Asari, in prison on treason charges, had pleaded for their release in a letter to the militants earlier on Thursday. He said people in his native community where the kidnapping took place were being victimised for holding the Koreans.
The militants say they want autonomy for the vast wetlands region which pumps all of Nigeria's oil and where most people live in poverty. The government has branded them criminals.
Several troops, police and militants were killed in two clashes during Wednesday's abduction, when dozens of men armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades attacked the Cawthorne Channel gas installation in speed boats.
Attacks by MEND in other parts of the delta in January and February have forced the closure of a quarter of Nigeria's oil output, but Wednesday's raid had little impact on the industry.
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