Militants on Thursday released two Italian oil-worker hostages seized more than three months ago in Nigeria's restive southern region, militants and officials said.
The Movement for the emancipation of the Niger Delta militants said the two captives seized December 7 were handed over to an Italian journalist visiting the region where Nigeria's crude is pumped.
The militants said the long captivity of the two Italians was meant to show Italy the injustice of their region, which remains impoverished despite its great natural resources. In a statement, they said they had acheived that goal, but vowed more kidnappings.
The Italians "will be replaced by other hostages who will again be taken off oil installations thought to be secure. We will attack such installations percieved to be secure to dispel the false sense of well-being gradually building up in the oil industry," the group said.
More than one year of stepped-up violence in the Niger Delta has cut daily output in Africa's biggest crude producer by nearly one quarter. Over 100 foreigners have been seized, although only one is known to remain in captivity: a French oil worker seized this year.
The Italians were taken along with another Italian man and a Lebanese, who were both released earlier. Moses Siasa, head of a government-backed hostage negotiation team in the region of creeks and rivers, confirmed today's release.