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LDS Church pursuing release of kidnapped missionaries

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A local LDS official in Nigeria spoke earlier today with four Nigerian missionaries who are being held captive in their native country, and the LDS Church continues to pursue their release, according to a statement issued Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has appointed a special adviser to the volatile oil-rich Niger delta region where the abduction occurred on Saturday, according to an Africast news report.

Bruce Olsen, managing director of public affairs for the church, said, "Every effort is being put forth to secure the release of four missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serving in Nigeria.

"The four young men, all Nigerian nationals in their early 20s, were taken Saturday morning from their apartment near Port Harcourt. Local Church leaders continue to review security and safeguard the health and well-being of the missionaries.

"A local bishop of the Church has been able to speak with each of the missionaries by phone this morning and has confirmed that they are well. We continue to be optimistic about the outcome," Olsen said.

"Missionaries from the Church serve at great personal sacrifice to them and their families. The missionary work in Nigeria continues to go forward.

"Their message is one of peace and love and they are well respected in Nigeria. We are grateful for the help of local community leaders in Nigeria working for the missionaries' release. We also appreciate the prayers of people worldwide in behalf of these missionaries."

In Nigeria, Godknows Boladei Igali will fill the new government post after successfully negotiating earlier this month for the release of nine Chinese oil workers who had been held captive by for 11 days, the Africast report said.

The groups who have abducted dozens of foreigners since Jan. 1 "are a mixture of separatist groups fighting for a larger share of Nigeria's oil revenue for local people, and criminal gangs lured by the prospect of ransom money," the report said.