Gunmen have freed three Filipino and one Ukrainian oil worker who were taken hostage off Cameroon’s Bakassi peninsula in March, a Cameroonian oil official said yesterday.
The official confirmed local reports that a ransom had been paid to free the men, who were working on an oil supply vessel contracted to Royal Dutch Shell when they were seized in a raid by suspected Nigerian militants, Reuters reports.
The attack took place some 14 km (9 miles) off the coast of Bakassi, a peninsula jutting into the Gulf of Guinea, which has seen an increasing number of attacks similar to those that have cut oil and gas output from Nigeria’s Niger Delta.
“The decision to release the hostages came after lengthy negotiations during which Pecten (Shell’s Cameroon joint venture) accepted to pay a huge sum of money in ransom to the pirates,” said a senior official in Cameroon’s state oil firm.
The official, who asked not to be named, did not say how much money was paid.
Le Jour, a newspaper published in Cameroon’s port city of Douala, reported on that the hostages had been freed in an exchange that took place at sea last week.
The newspaper and oil official said an initial exchange failed several weeks ago when the ransom money was stolen.
Attacks on oil workers and installations have become common in Nigerian waters over the last three years but gunmen in fast boats have increasingly struck further afield in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea.
Five Chinese fishermen were taken off Cameroon in a July attack. Cameroonian officials fear a recent campaign by Nigeria’s army against the militants in the Delta will push them into Cameroon’s waters.