Nigerian police free abducted footballer Obodo

Nigerian police have freed international footballer Christian Obodo unhurt during a raid, a day after gunmen kidnapped him in front of a church and demanded a ransom, a spokesman said Monday.

"He has been rescued and we have five suspects in our net as a result of it," Delta state police spokesman Charles Muka said. He said police staged a raid on Sunday night after trailing the kidnappers to their hideout.

In addition to the five arrests, an AK-47 rifle was recovered, Muka said. Further details of the release and who was behind the kidnapping were not yet clear.

The Italy-based midfielder was kidnapped by four men in Effurun in Delta state on Saturday morning near the southern oil city of Warri, where abductions for ransom occur regularly.

He was abducted in front of a church, where he had gone to worship in his Bentley Continental car marked 'Obodo 5'.

His kidnappers had demanded a ransom of about $188,000 (149,000 euros).

Delta state sports commission press secretary Timi Ebikagboro also confirmed Obodo's release.

Obodo, 28, is a Nigerian international midfielder who spent last season on loan at southern Italian club Lecce from fellow Serie A side Udinese.

Kidnappings for ransom of expatriates and wealthy Nigerians or their relatives have occurred regularly in the oil-producing Niger Delta region, where Delta state is located, and occasionally elsewhere.

The brother of Everton defender Joseph Yobo was kidnapped in 2008 and freed days later, while last year the father of Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi was also abducted in the central city of Jos before being freed after a police raid.

In February, a Nigerian court granted bail to two former soldiers and five other suspects charged over the August kidnapping of Mikel Obi's father.

Michael Obi was abducted in Jos -- where he resides -- on August 12 and freed 10 days later in a Nigerian police raid.

He had told the court that he was abducted by men who came to his house in a van and dressed in army uniforms. He said the men forcefully took him to the city of Kano, hundreds of kilometres (miles) from Jos.

Both of the soldiers suspected of involvement have been dismissed from the army, an army spokesman has said.

In the case of Yobo's brother, he was held captive after being seized at gunpoint in a hotel in Port Harcourt, the main city of the Niger Delta region, the heart of one of the world's largest oil industries.

The kidnappers were demanding a 1.7 million dollar ransom before freeing Yobo's brother.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer, with a population of some 160 million people.

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