British oil worker Matthew Maguire, kidnapped in Nigeria more than nine months ago, was finally released by his captors Friday. The MEND rebels who abducted him along with 27 other oil workers in September 2008 had originally promised to free him on his birthday, June 1, later reneged on that agreement, claiming he chose to stay behind as "an advocate for change." Via The Guardian:
Gordon Brown yesterday officially confirmed the safe release of a British oil worker held hostage in Nigeria for over nine months.
Matthew Maguire, 35, from Birkenhead in Merseyside, was among 27 oil workers taken hostage by militants in the Niger Delta area in September 2008.
The group behind the kidnapping, The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), had demanded the release of their leader, Henry Okah, in exchange for the hostages. Okah is currently being held by the Nigerian government on arms trafficking charges.
The group announced Maguire's release through an email, saying he had been handed over to Nigerian officials.
In a statement the prime minister said: "I am pleased to confirm the safe release of Matthew Maguire ... This news comes a great relief to all concerned, and I am glad that, for Mr Maguire and his family and friends, this ordeal is over. I should like to thank all those who have worked so hard on this case. We remain in close contact with the family and I urge the media to respect their privacy at this time."
Ironically, Mr. Maguire had indeed refused to be released earlier this year, but it was to save the life of fellow hostage Robin Hughes, who was dangerously ill and was not likely to survive further captivity. Via The Echo:
Despite missing his family and surviving on little food Mr Maguire begged his captors to free the boat’s ailing captain Robin Hughes, 60, from Dover in Kent.
Mr Hughes had a severe infection in his right foot and ongoing circulation problems.
Mr Maguire, from Birkenhead, feared he may die if he were not freed.
The ex-West Derby comprehensive pupil told press in Nigeria – where he is awaiting a flight home – how he begged the militants to free Mr Hughes who was released in April.
He said: “I was really worried about the captain. He wasn’t well. He wasn’t breathing right. I told the militants if they didn’t release him he would die.
“They didn’t want to release him but the villagers helped as well – they put pressure on the militants saying ‘he needs to go to hospital’ and we got them to release him.”
Mr Hughes’ brother Simon, 48, said his brother was now recovering with his family in Brazil.
He said: “It was such a relief to us Mr Maguire was there and could see how bad he was. The doctors managed to cut out the infection which made all his leg swell. But if it had been left things could have got very bad.
“We’re all just so pleased Mr Maguire is out now. Because it was awful to think Robin was safe and being treated and he was still there.
“We just want to thank him for everything he did.”
Thank God for this answer to prayer, and for this example of selfless sacrifice. May God continue to bless Mr. Maguire and Mr. Hughes and their families.