Two Germans freed by abductors in Nigeria

August 15th, 2008 - 5:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Berlin, Aug 15 (DPA) Two German engineers abducted in Nigeria’s delta region a month ago have been freed, the German foreign office said Friday in Berlin. The men were receiving medical attention, a spokesman said.

The Nigerian militant group, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), said it had rescued the two construction engineers from a group holding them hostage by pretending to hold a grudge against the firm employing them.

MEND said it had issued threats against the company in order to gain the trust of the group.

The German parent company, Mannheim-based Bilfinger Berger AG, said the two men were unharmed. “They are well under the circumstances,” a spokesman said.

He declined to comment on whether the men had been ransomed. “We know of no payments,” he said.

The company, Germany’s second-largest construction firm, said it was sticking by its plans to withdraw from Nigeria. “This does not change our evaluation of the security situation,” the spokesman said.

MEND said it had decided to move, as one of the men was in poor health after being injured when he was abducted. It added that no one had been injured in the operation to free the engineers.

It named the two as Jurgen Vetten, 43, and Bernd Mechlen, 60, employed by Julius Berger PLC, a Nigerian subsidiary of Bilfinger Berger.

The two were abducted on July 11 from a construction site where they were working on upgrading roads around 19 km from Port Harcourt.

Julius Berger Nigeria employs around 18,000 staff, with a third of them affected by the withdrawal.

Another company employee was abducted in March and released after 12 hours. The firm said at the time it had not paid for him to be freed.

Last year, a Dutch employee of the firm was abducted. He was released after two weeks.

Militant groups have been attacking oil facilities and abducting foreign workers in the delta region since 2006, as they press for a bigger say in oil exploitation in the area.

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