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Expatriate contractors kidnapped in Niger Delta released

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Seven contractors, including three Australians and a South African, have been released four days after they were kidnapped by gunmen in southern Nigeria, officials said.

Police had given conflicting accounts of how many had been seized and what their nationalities were but they all worked for cement company Lafarge and were taken on the outskirts of Calabar, capital of Cross River State, in the Niger Delta.

Cross River State Commissioner Jimoh Ozi-Obeh said they were released “unhurt” on Sunday. However, Australian contractors Macmahon Holdings Ltd said in a statement on Monday that five of the seven had been injured, two seriously.

“Macmahon Holdings Ltd is relieved to confirm the release of all seven of its men who were abducted near its operations in Calabar, Nigeria,” the company said.

Kidnappings of foreigners are common in the region, which holds most of the OPEC member’s crude oil and contributes about 70 percent of national income. Nigeria was Africa’s top oil producer until a recent spate of attacks on oil facilities.

Lafarge Africa could not immediately be reached for comment.

[Source: Reuters]

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