Nigerian militants free six foreign hostages
LAGOS, June 2 (Reuters) Six foreign workers seized from a Nigerian oil facility operated by US energy giant Chevron on May 1 were all freed today, the rebel group that abducted them said.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said the expatriates -- four Italians, an American and a Croat -- were handed over to the Bayelsa state government.
''We confirm the release today ... of all six individuals captured by our fighters,'' MEND said in a statement. It said the freed workers are John Stapleton, Ignazio Gugliotta, Alfonso Franza, Raffaele Pascarriello, Mario Celntano and Jurica Ruic.
The Italian foreign ministry confirmed the release of the men and said they were all in good health.
The MEND, which is pressing for regional control over the Niger Delta's vast oil wealth, the release of two jailed leaders from the area and compensation to villages for pollution, had failed to free the hostages on Wednesday because of what it called logistical problems.
The group said the release was not an indication it planned to stop hostage taking, but to show its readiness to dialogue with the government.