(ATTN: UPDATES with foreign ministry's announcement in paras 6-8)
SEOUL, Oct. 17 (Yonhap) -- Two South Korean fishermen kidnapped in waters off Ghana in August have been released, their company said Saturday.
The two were abducted on Aug. 28 when their Ghanaian-flagged fishing vessel was attacked by a group of armed militants in waters 200 kilometers southeast of Ghana.
The boat had a total of 50 crew members, but the militants had only taken the two South Koreans hostage, Seoul officials said earlier.
"The crew members were released just now," an official from their employer, BSK, told Yonhap News Agency, adding the two are now in Nigeria.
Their health conditions are not yet known, the official said, noting that the South Korean Embassy in Nigeria has supported negotiations for their release.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release in Seoul, saying the freed fishermen are in relatively good health and have been sent to a safe place arranged by the South Korean Embassy in Nigeria.
"The Koreans were released at 4:30 a.m. on Oct. 17 (Korean time) or 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 16 (Nigerian time). In accordance with their will, they will move to Ghana, where they were stationed, as soon as a flight is secured," the ministry said.
The ministry said it arranged telephone calls between the freed fishermen and their families soon after their release and that it plans to offer all possible consular support for their safe return to Ghana.
Their release came 50 days after their abduction.
The two South Koreans and 48 Ghanaian crew members were aboard the 500-ton vessel AP 703 at 8:04 a.m. on the August day when the attack occurred. The pirates took only the Koreans and headed toward Nigeria. The Ghanaian crew members all returned to their country.
The incident came two months after five Korean sailors were abducted in waters off Benin in western Africa. They were aboard the Ghanaian vessel Panofi Frontier when it was attacked by an armed group on June 24. They were released in southern Nigeria a month later. Earlier in May, a Korean shrimp fisherman was kidnapped off the coast of Gabon and was released the following month.
Following repeated abductions in waters off West Africa, calls have been mounting for the government to craft stronger safety measures, such as restricting fishing or other operations in the perilous waters.
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