The U.S. State Department said Tuesday the two American sailors kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Nigeria last month were released over the weekend.
The State Department said pirates kidnapped the sailors from a U.S.-flagged oil vessel three weeks ago in the Gulf of Guinea, which is about 15 nautical miles south of Nigeria. (Via CBS)
"U.S. officials say once on board, the heavily armed band of pirates singled out the Americans — the captain and engineer — and took them ashore as hostages." (Via NBC)
The details of the release are scarce and NBC reports the the names of the two Americans aren't being made public.
But Fox News reports the the Louisiana-based firm that owns the ship, Edison Chouest Offshore, had been negotiating with the pirates to secure a release.
"The release is an interesting matter. It came after the ship's company negotiated some sort of ransom payment. So, they said 'To get your people who we've kidnapped, you have to pay a ransom.' Apparently they paid that ransom."
Although piracy attacks have fallen worldwide over the past year, the ICC Commercial Crime Services says the waters near West Africa have become a piracy hotspot.
The organization reports the Gulf of Guinea had 40 piracy attacks within the first three quarters of 2013, and accounted for all crew kidnappings worldwide. Nigeria accounted for 29 of those attacks, which one expert calls extremely well-thought out.
“What you must know with these pirates is that they’re highly organized groups. Very, very organized with a specific method of operating that is very precise, planned, very well calculated.” (Via Arise News)
NBC quotes an advisor to the Nigerian president who said the uptick in piracy — especially kidnappings on the high seas — is a result of stagnant economic conditions despite the country's oil wealth. Edison Chouest Offshore has not yet commented on the release of the Americans.