Five seamen seized by pirates in Gulf of Guinea are freed

Pirates attacked an oil production vessel off Nigeria in the early hours of Thursday and kidnapped nine Nigerian nationals. /REUTERS
Pirates sized five seamen in the Gulf of Guinea five months ago. (File Photo: REUTERS) 

Five seamen seized by pirates in the notorious waters of the Gulf of Guinea five months ago have been released, the government of Equatorial Guinea said on Wednesday.

Three Russians, a Ukrainian and a national of Equatorial Guinea were abducted on May 9 from freighters anchored off the Equatoguinean capital of capital of Malabo and the port of Luba, 40 kilometres (25 miles) away. Two other seafarers were injured.

“The five hostages were freed safe and sound” in Nigeria on Tuesday, the ministry of foreign affairs and cooperation said in a statement.

It expressed “great satisfaction” about the release but gave no further details.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) lists the Gulf of Guinea, which extends along 5,700 kilometres (3,500 miles) of coastal west and central Africa, as the most dangerous waters in the world for commercial shipping, accounting by itself for 90 percent of all kidnappings at sea.

From January to mid-July, 49 seamen were seized in this region and held captive on land for ransom, the IMB said on July 15.

Many of the abductions are reputedly carried out by Nigerians, travelling aboard light, fast-moving boats to attack ships moored or passing in coastal waters.

On August 12, in a video released by their captors, the five hostages said they were being held in poor conditions and called on the governments of their countries to work for their release.

Equatorial Guinea, on September 13, reacted strongly when this video circulated on social media, expressing its “concern” and “indignation” to the Nigerian authorities, and calling in the Nigerian ambassador in Malabo, the capital.

The envoy, Toko Ali Gougulong, told local media that the Nigerian security forces had tried to release the captives but the operation had failed.

“We will do everything to pay the ransom they are asking,” he was quoted as saying.