Nigerian army says $300,000 paid to pirates to free crew on board a Chinese boat .

The 14 crew members from a Chinese fishing boat on Saturday regained their freedom from their pirate kidnappers after a month in captivity.

Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Yahaya told AFP news agency a ransom of $300,000 was paid before the crew were freed.

The Chinese fishing boat, registered in Gabon, was seized using high-speed boats off the Gabonese port of Port-Gentil on February 7 and the crew – six Chinese nationals, three Indonesians, a Gabon national and four Nigerians – kidnapped.

The boat, with the crew still on board, was spotted some 110km (68 miles) from the Nigerian island of Bonny a few days after the attack.

Maritime security consultants Dryad Global said the hijacked Chinese boat was used as a “mothership” for attacks on oil tankers.

Attacking ships to kidnap their crew for ransom has become common in the Gulf of Guinea, which runs from Senegal to Angola, taking in the southwest coast of Nigeria.

The Gulf of Guinea accounted for more than 95 percent of all maritime kidnappings last year,130 out of 135 cases according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which monitors security at sea.

The region witnessed a 40-percent increase in cases related to piracy and kidnapping during the first nine months of 2020, according to the IMB.

Experts point to Nigeria’s Niger Delta as a major source of recruitment for pirates. The region’s oil riches do not benefit the local population who also find their traditional economic sectors of fishing and farming wrecked by pollution from oil extraction.

It is believed in some quarters though unsubstantiated that the local population is fertile ground for pirate gangs to recruit foot soldiers and to hide out between raids.

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