BEIJING, (AP) – China’s Foreign Ministry announced Sunday that nine Chinese oil workers who were kidnapped last month in Nigeria had been released unharmed by their captors.
The workers were taken Jan. 25 when gunmen stormed the government-owned Chinese National Petroleum Co. office in the Nigerian state of Bayelsa.
The Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement on its Web site that the workers were released early Sunday (Beijing time) and were expected to return to China soon.
In a separate incident in southern Nigeria’s Rivers state last month, five Chinese telecommunication workers were kidnapped and safely returned within two weeks.
Foreign workers, especially in the oil industry, have become targets of armed militants seeking a greater share of Nigeria’s oil wealth.
“We hope overseas Chinese enterprises and personnel will further raise their awareness of safety and risk and step up precautionary measures so as to ensure their safety,” ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu was quoted as saying.
The workers’ release comes as Chinese President Hu Jintao makes an eight-country tour of Africa aimed at boosting trade ties, though Nigeria was not on the itinerary.
Hu visited Nigeria last year as part of Beijing’s efforts to secure energy and other resources for its booming economy.