Africa

Two US sailors seized off Nigeria coast are released

Nigerian navy special forces patrol against pirates. File photo
Image caption Nigerian navy special forces have been patrolling the coast against attacks by pirates

Two US sailors kidnapped in October from a ship off Nigeria's coast have been freed, the state department says.

The two men were the captain and chief engineer of the US-flagged C-Retriever oil supply ship, it says.

State department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to provide any details how the sailors were released.

Incidents of piracy off Nigeria's coast have increased this year as gangs try to snatch cargoes from ships passing through the Gulf of Guinea.

Ransom payments

The C-retriever was stormed by gunmen on 23 October near the coastal town of Brass in Nigeria's oil rich Bayelsa State.

The captain and the chief engineer - whose names have not been released - where then led away by the attackers.

No group has said it carried out the attack.

The International Maritime Bureau has recorded more than 40 attacks in the area this year with 132 crew taken hostage. The gangs usually target the oil vessels to steal the cargo.

It is estimated that oil product worth approximately $100m (approximately £62m) has been stolen since 2010.

In recent months there have been numerous kidnappings of foreign oil workers and wealthy Nigerians, especially in the oil-producing Niger Delta region.

They have often been held until a ransom payment is made and then released unharmed.