09 January 2013, AFP – Pirates have freed three Italian sailors they abducted from a ship off Nigeria last month, the foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday.
“Our three sailors are free and will soon return to Italy,” Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said in a statement, while the ministry said the Italians would be flown back into the country later Wednesday.
The armed pirates abducted the sailors after attacking the MV Asso Ventuno some 40 nautical miles off Nigeria’s Bayelsa state on December 23.
“We’re well, they treated us well,” sailor Emiliano Astarita told his father Franco by telephone on his release, ANSA news agency said.
The ministry gave no details of a fourth sailor, thought to be Ukrainian, who was abducted with them according to Italian media reports.
Terzi thanked the Nigeria authorities who he said had collaborated closely with the Italian foreign office to free the sailors.
Such kidnappings occur regularly off Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta region, with hostages typically released after payment of a ransom.
The ministry would not comment on whether a ransom was paid.