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Two Americans kidnapped by pirates in Nigeria released

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Two Americans kidnapped from a U.S.-flagged oil vessel in the south of Nigeria almost three weeks ago have been released, the State Department said Tuesday.

The captain and the chief engineer of the C-Retriever were taken off the ship during an Oct. 23 attack in the Gulf of Guinea, where piracy dangers are on the rise.

Last week, a crew from NBC News tracked the 222-foot oil supply ship, owned by a Louisiana firm, to the outskirts of the Port of Onne, where it sat in the water apparently abandoned.

Citing privacy concerns, State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said details of the release and the names of the Americans were not being made public.

"We welcome the release of the two U.S. citizens who were kidnapped from the Retriever," she said.

Experts say it's common for sailors who are abducted in Nigerian waters to be released after a ransom is paid.

Nigeria is considered the top kidnap hot spot in the world, according to security firm NYA. Analysts say anger that the country's oil wealth has not filtered down to average citizens is fueling the crime spike.

"There is a lot of anger within the local communities that the rush for 'black gold' has not led to an improvement in [people's] economic conditions," Leke Oyewole, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's special adviser on maritime services, told NBC News.

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