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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2007, 05:34 GMT
Foreign workers freed in Nigeria
Map of Nigeria
Five Chinese workers kidnapped in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta region have been freed, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

Unidentified gunmen seized the group of telecommunications engineers near the city of Port Harcourt on 5 January.

"Following efforts, the hostages were all safely rescued," the ministry said in a statement.

Earlier, the Italian authorities confirmed that an Italian oil worker seized in December had been released.

The Niger Delta region has been hit by attacks and kidnappings in recent months.

Militants seeking a greater share of the region's oil wealth have targeted foreign oil facilities and their workers since early 2006.

Rising violence

The Chinese workers were released on Wednesday, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

"The Chinese government appreciates support and assistance of relevant parties in Nigeria," the foreign ministry statement said.

The kidnapped men had been in the region to install telephone lines, Nigerian officials said at the time of their abduction.

Roberto Dieghi
Dieghi and three others were seized last month

Earlier, militants turned over Roberto Dieghi, an Italian oil worker seized last month, to a Bayelsa state government delegation.

The militants, a group called the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), said it had released him as a goodwill gesture.

But three of Mr Dieghi's colleagues seized at the same time as him - two Italians and a Lebanese man, all employed by Italian oil firm Agip - remain in captivity.

No discussions were going on concerning the remaining men, who would be held "indefinitely", a statement from Mend said.

In recent months attacks by the militants have escalated, causing oil multinationals to evacuate thousands of workers from the western side of the region.

On Tuesday, two oil workers - a Nigerian and a Dutch national - were killed when gunmen attacked a vessel near an oil export complex.

The instability in the region has reduced Nigeria's oil production, costing the country some $4.4bn (2.2bn) last year, according to the government.

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