Seven French and three African oil workers taken hostage from a tugboat off the coast of Cameroon last month were freed Tuesday
Seven French and three African oil workers taken hostage from a tugboat off the coast of Cameroon last month were freed Tuesday.
French officials credited help from Nigerian authorities and Cameroon President Paul Biya for the oil workers release.
President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said he expressed his "relief" at the news and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner hailed the "happy ending" to the incident.
"This incident reminds us of the urgent necessity for the international community to fight effectively against maritime piracy," Kouchner said.
The 10 hostages, including two Cameroon citizens and one Tunisian, were in good health, according to Christa Roqueblave, a spokeswoman for the maritime services company Bourbon, owner of the Bourbon Sagitta tugboat.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier said the hostages were not freed by a military operation since their captors seized them for mostly political — not financial — motives.
"The French state did not pay a ransom," he said. "There were talks between authorities in Cameroon and the hostage-takers."
A Cameroon militia group took the oil workers hostage Oct. 31 off the West African nation's coast, and threatened to kill them if demands for autonomy talks with the government were not met.
Days after the hostage-taking, Ebi Dari, a leader of the militia said one of the hostages was killed in a failed rescue attempt by Nigerian marines, an allegation later denied by French officials.
Dari heads the Cameroon-based Niger Delta Defense and Security Council, an umbrella group for several militias that have operated in Cameroon's Bakassi Peninsula for years. The militias want autonomy and development for Bakassi.