updated 1/30/2006 2:38:00 AM ET 2006-01-30T07:38:00

A militia in southern Nigeria on Monday released four foreign oil workers — including one American — who had been kidnapped and held hostage for more than two weeks, a regional government spokesman said.

The men — an American, a Briton, a Bulgarian and a Honduran — were taken to the Bayelsa state government headquarters after being released, said Ekiyor Welson, spokesman for the state government. No further details were immediately available.

The oil workers were captured by armed gunmen at a Shell offshore oil rig in the volatile Niger Delta region on Jan. 11.

The previously unknown militia group who abducted them, the Movement for the Emancipation of the People of the Niger Delta, initially said they would only release them if the government freed two detained leaders of their ethnic Ijaw group. The hostages were released, however, without this condition being met.

Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil imports. The country produces about 2.5 million barrels a day.

But oil also is a source of unrest. Violence, hostage-taking and sabotage of oil operations have been common in the Niger Delta in the past 15 years amid demands by the region’s impoverished communities for a greater share of the oil revenue flowing from their land.

Attacks in recent weeks has cut Nigeria’s daily oil exports by nearly 10 percent.

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