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21

Ukranian Hostage Released in Nigeria

The main militant group in Nigeria's oil region said it freed a Ukrainian and three Nigerian hostages, while still holding two British nationals

The main militant group in Nigeria's oil region said it freed a Ukrainian and three Nigerian hostages, while still holding two British nationals.

Those freed were handed over to the Niger Delta Peace and Conflict Committee, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, known as MEND, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

``The remaining two British nationals will be kept with us until the government of Gordon Brown stops offering training and materials to the Nigerian armed forces,'' MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo said in the statement. Their release will also be tied to the freedom of the militant group's leader, Henry Okah, who is currently facing trial for treason and gun-running, Gbomo said.

British diplomatic officials in Nigeria weren't immediately available for comment.

Attacks by MEND and other armed groups in the Niger Delta have cut more than 20 percent of Nigeria's oil exports since 2006, disrupting fields operated by Royal Dutch Shell Plc and other companies. Nigeria is Africa's leading oil producer.

MEND, which claims it's fighting for a greater share of Nigeria's oil revenue for people living in the south-east of the country, claimed it rescued the hostages from pirates who abducted them from a ship in Nigerian waters in September. Two South Africans and 19 Nigerians aboard the vessel were freed soon afterwards, with the group saying the rest were being held to deter military bombardment of its camps.

Author: Jo Amey