ABUJA, June 18 (Reuters) - A French sailor was freed on Tuesday after being captured by pirates last week from his ship off the coast of Togo and taken to Nigeria, a military commander said.
Pirates attacked the oil products tanker Adour on June 13, around 30 nautical miles off the coast of Togo.
General Bata Dembiro, a commander in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta region, said the Nigerian navy and French marines stormed the vessel after the hijackers seized it, but they took Benjamin Elan hostage to enable them to escape. They released the other 14 crew, he said.
“The rescued foreign ship worker was abducted in Togo aboard an oil tanker and brought to Bayelsa state (in Nigeria) by suspected kidnappers,” Dembiro told Reuters by telephone.
The pirates took the Frenchman to a small village in Bayelsa state in the delta, but youths from the local community alerted the authorities, enabling them to mount a rescue operation. The gang had fled before they arrived in the house, he said.
The shipping company in charge of the boat, ST Management SAAM, declined to comment except to confirm that there had been an “incident” with the Adour.
Pirate attacks off West Africa’s mineral-rich Gulf of Guinea have almost doubled from last year and threaten to jeopardise the shipping of commodities from the region.
The attacks are mostly carried out by armed Nigerian gangs who are also responsible for kidnappings and oil theft in onshore Africa’s largest oil producer, security sources say. (Reporting by Tife Owolabi; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Tim Cocks and Michael Roddy)