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AUSTRALIAN HOSTAGE IN NIGERIA



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M ED IA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

ALEXANDER DOW NER

FA160 18 November 1997

AUSTRALIAN HOSTAGE IN NIGERIA

Today we heard the welcome news that the Australian hostage in Nigeria had been released by his captors. .

The man, who comes from Western Australia, had been held for the past week along with a number o f his colleagues from Nigeria, New Zealand, the UK and the USA in the delta region of the Benin River in Nigeria

All o f the hostages have now been taken out of the area and the Australian is now in Lagos. The High Commissioner has spoken briefly by telephone with the Australian involved and will have more detailed discussions with him in Lagos later today.

The Australian has been in contact with his wife and we understand he will contact other members o f his family shortly.

My Parliamentary Secretary, Mrs Kathy Sullivan and I have been following developments closely in this case. Mrs Sullivan, under my instructions, has been in touch with the Australian's wife during this harrowing ordeal.

Surface travel is very difficult in this area of Nigeria and the Australian has had to travel for three hours by boat through a swamp to Igbokuta and from there by road to the Ondo State capital of Akure and then a further three hour journey to Lagos.

I understand the dispute centred on community and labour problems and had been simmering for some time.

The release of hostages has been occurring progressively over the last couple of days. I am pleased that all of the hostages are now safe and away from their captors.

Our primary concern over die last few days has been for a peaceful settlement and this has been achieved. Our High Commission and consular officials have been working very hard in trying to create the right sort of environment for a non-violent outcome to this situation.

This has been a stressing time, especially for the families concerned. I hope that the families will be united for Christmas and the presence of their loved ones will bring special happiness. .

For more information: Innes Willox (Ministerial) 02 6277-7500 or 0411 414-695 Sally Mansfield (Departmental) 02 6261-1555

Medio releases and speeches are available from DFAT via the internet, http://www.dfal.pov.au/

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