Hostages return home to rousing reception

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Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, Nov 2 (UNI) Vadakkankulam village in this southern district of Tamil Nadu erupted in joy when three of the hostages, released by their Nigerian kidnappers, returned home.

The family members, relatives and villagers gave a rousing reception to the trio last night by bursting crackers and distributing sweets, when they arrived by car from the Thiruvananthapuram airport.

Ajit Kamaraj, Ponnambalam Vinodh and Kumaresan Mohandoss, employed by an Italian offshore oil company, returned home, after their release by the kidnappers on October 30.

The rebel Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) had taken them hostage after attacking their vessel and demanded a ransom from the Italian company for their release.

Sharing their experiences with the villagers on their return, Mr Kamaraj and others said the abductors treated them well and prayed for them, before setting them free.

They were engaged in oil exploration, about 50 km offshore, when the rebels entered the ship on the evening of October 26.

They had intimidated the Captain of the vessel, before looking for ''foreigners'' working for the oil company.

''We were hiding in one of the rooms in the ship, when the kidnappers held six of us, including a Maharastrian and two from Poland, as hostages at gun point. We were held hostage in a forest area,'' they added.

They heaved a sigh of relief only when the kidnappers made it clear that they would not harm them. There were more than 200 people in the forest area, they said.

After four days in captivity, the abductors released them, stating that the company had paid them money. ''After a two-hour boat travel, we reached the shore,'' they said.

The company had given them two months leave to visit their family members. ''We will go back and work for the company after the leave period,'' they said.

UNI

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