2 Americans kidnapped by pirates off Nigeria released


Members of a team from the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio (CG 68) and US Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team 91104 secure the crewmembers of suspected pirate vessel on Oct. 15, 2009.


Matthew Bash/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

Two American sailors kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Nigeria last month have been freed and are on their way home.

The State Department confirmed the weekend rescue on Tuesday.

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"We welcome the release of the two U.S. citizens who were kidnapped from the Retriever," spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

The news comes nearly three weeks after armed men stormed the 221-foot oil supply ship in the Gulf of Guinea and kidnapped the two Americans, identified at the time as only the captain and a chief engineer.

Citing privacy concerns, Psaki said details of the rescue and the identifies of the Americans were not being made public.

However, two anonymous US officials told ABC News the sailors were freed after negotiations successfully yielded a ransom payment.

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Both captives were reported to be safe and healthy.

While piracy has dipped to its lowest levels in seven years worldwide, cases are up in Nigeria.

The country is now regarded as the top kidnap hotspot in the world, according to maritime security firm NYA.