Oil workers kidnapped off Nigerian coast released

Three crew members of a cargo ship kidnapped by heavily-armed pirates last month off Nigeria have been released.

In a statement, Britain-based Carisbrooke Shipping said it was "pleased and relieved to report that the three officers who were taken from the vessel by armed men 80 miles off the south coast of Nigeria in February and held hostage, have now been released."

Neither the company nor Nigeria's security forces had previously confirmed the attack and the nationalities of the sailors have not been disclosed.

"Carisbrooke Shipping is delighted that the seafarers have been released and the company wishes to thank their three officers for their courage and fortitude in dealing with this very difficult situation in such a professional manner; also to thank the families of those being held for their patience and courage at such a difficult and worrying time," the statement continued. "The Company also wishes to extend its appreciation to the governments, government agencies and other professionals who assisted in bringing this difficult situation to a close.

"Carisbrooke Shipping will not be releasing any further details concerning the release in order to avoid encouraging further criminal acts of this kind."

Carisbrooke said the Esther C vessel had been "ransacked" by well-armed pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, a region that includes the waters off Benin, Nigeria and Togo.

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