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Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian Sailors Freed After Africa Kidnapping

Kidnappings are common off Benin's coast. These two Frenchmen were kidnapped in Benin in 2019.

Eight foreign crew members kidnapped from a container ship off Benin's coast last month have been freed, the Nigerian Navy says.

The eight include nationals from Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and the Philippines.

They were freed in a rescue operation on May 23, Nigerian Navy Admiral Oladele Daji told AFP, adding that it was “premature to give any details on their captivity and release.”

“They are on medical observation and one of them is receiving medical treatment for malnutrition," Daji said on May 25.

The owner of the ship, Hamburg-based shipping firm Transeste, confirmed that the detained crew members had been released and would be repatriated back to their families.

Transeste has said the vessel, the Tommi Ritscher, had been boarded by pirates on April 19 while at anchor off the coast of Benin.

Eleven crew members were able to hide in the ship’s citadel and were later freed in a joint Benin Navy and Nigerian Special Forces operation.

However, 11 crew members remained missing, including three Russians, one Ukrainian, and the Bulgarian captain.

The West African country lies in the Gulf of Guinea, which has been the scene of pirate attacks, lootings, and kidnappings for ransom. Many of the pirates come from Nigeria.

Based on reporting by AFP