Pirates release 12 sailors

Twelve foreign sailors taken hostage off Nigeria’s oil-rich and restive southern delta were safely released Sunday, a Nigerian naval spokesman said.

LAGOS, Nigeria — Twelve foreign sailors taken hostage off Nigeria’s oil-rich and restive southern delta were safely released Sunday, a Nigerian naval spokesman said.

Commodore David Nabaida told The Associated Press that all the men were in good condition after pirates released them onto a fishing trawler off the coast of the Niger Delta. The captain of the trawler informed naval authorities after the men were dropped on his boat.

Nabaida said that the men will be interviewed, but all appeared to be in good health. He said he had no information on whether a ransom had been paid to secure the men’s release. Most hostages are released unharmed in these types of kidnappings after some sort of a ransom is paid.

Pirates boarded the German-flagged cargo ship BBC Palonia Friday night off the coast of the Niger Delta. A struggle broke out during the attack and pirates shot one crew member in the leg during the fight, Nabaida said.

Nabaida said the Nigerian navy escorted the ship to safe waters and transported the wounded Ukrainian sailor to a local hospital.

“We are working on how to arrest them (pirates),” Nabaida said.

Friday’s attack is just the latest as acts of piracy increase in the Gulf of Guinea, especially along Nigeria’s 530 miles of coastline.

The attack comes after 12 pirates in speed boats attacked a bulk carrier in the same area June 27. The International Maritime Bureau, which tracks piracy worldwide, reported that the pirates shot at crew members with locally made firearms while trying to board the ship. Crew members repelled the attack using a slingshot, the bureau said. One sailor suffered a minor injuries during the assault.

Such attacks have been common in the Niger Delta, a region of swamps, mangrove fields and creeks almost the size of South Carolina.

Militants have kidnapped oil workers, bombed crude pipelines and fought with government troops since an insurrection began there in 2006. While a government-sponsored amnesty deal has slowed violence in recent months, analysts worry the program has begun to fray as weapons remain plentiful in the impoverished region.

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