Remaining ChevronTexaco hostages released

The last two of the 18 workers of ChevronTexaco held hostage by militant Ijaw youths who seized the company's oil platforms off the coast of Bayelsa state in Nigeria have been released, company officials said on Wednesday.

They said the two men were returned to ChevronTexaco on Saturday by officials of the Bayelsa State government in the Niger Delta who had secured their release after negotiations with the ethnic Ijaw militants who kidnapped them.

ChevronTexaco said in a statement it had resumed oil production at its Funiwa platform, one of four offshore oil platforms shut
down and evacuated after the militants struck.

Chuck Taylor, Managing Director of Texaco Overseas (TOPCON), was quoted as saying "we are relieved that all our employees are now safe." The last two hostages were handed over to company representatives at Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa state's 120 km, northeast of Port Harcourt.

Eighteen ChevronTexaco workers were kidnapped last Wednesday when armed Ijaw youths invaded four of the company's oil platforms off the Niger Delta.

Nigerian Navy personnel later stormed the platforms and freed 16 of the hostages, one of whom was seriously wounded in the operation, officials said. One of the Ijaw militants was shot dead, they added.

Company officials said ChevronTexaco lost 23,000 barrels per day of oil production during the six-day closure of the Funiwa, North Apoi, Middleton and Pennington platforms.

This was the second attack on ChevronTexaco this month. Two weeks ago, 12 workers of the company were kidnapped while travelling o a boat to production facilities. They were later released.