4 workers kidnapped in Nigeria are set free

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4 workers kidnapped in Nigeria are set free

Four Korean workers at Hyundai Heavy Industries and their Nigerian colleague who were kidnapped by unidentified men last week in southern Nigeria were released Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Saturday.

“All of the four Hyundai Heavy Industries workers who were abducted by [Nigerian] kidnappers were safely released Friday at around 10 p.m. near a village in Yenagoa, the capital of the State of Bayelsa,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The workers are in good health.”

The ministry added that there was no “harsh treatment” by the kidnappers and that the employees will return home “as soon as possible” after receiving health checkups in Bayelsa.

The exact date of their return hasn’t been confirmed.

On Dec. 17, four Korean employees and their two Nigerian colleagues were abducted by an armed group while on duty at a construction site in Brass, a local government area in Bayelsa in the Niger Delta region.

All six men who were abducted were immediately taken onto a speed boat, but one Nigerian was ordered off the boat and swam back to the construction site.

The released Nigerian worker reportedly informed the police about the kidnapping incident.

One day after the incident, the kidnappers called Hyundai Heavy Industries headquarters and told them that the abducted workers were safe.

The kidnappers reportedly contacted the company several more times before releasing the workers on Friday.

Whether or not the company paid a ransom is unknown, an official from the Foreign Ministry said.

The Foreign Ministry and the Korean Embassy in Nigeria jointly ran an emergency task force, while Ulsan-based Hyundai Heavy Industries also set up an emergency situation room to discuss a response.

“The local government and the community helped us free the Korean men. Hyundai Heavy Industries is also known to have negotiated [with the abductors] continuously and persuaded them persistently [for their release],” the official said.

According to AFP, Austin Giwa, the Nigerian who was abducted along with the four Koreans, was quoted as saying that “their abductors had demanded a $1.3 million ransom from the company.”

By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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