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Christian Obodo Freed: Nigeria Police Rescue Lecce Soccer Player

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LECCE, ITALY - JANUARY 22: Christian Obodo of Lecce in action during the Serie A match between US Lecce and AC Chievo Verona at Stadio Via del Mare on January 22, 2012 in Lecce, Italy. (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
LECCE, ITALY - JANUARY 22: Christian Obodo of Lecce in action during the Serie A match between US Lecce and AC Chievo Verona at Stadio Via del Mare on January 22, 2012 in Lecce, Italy. (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)

LAGOS, Nigeria -- Police on Sunday night rescued midfielder Christian Obodo, a player for Italy's Udinese football club now on loan to Lecce, a day after he was abducted in Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta, a police spokesman said.

Delta state police spokesman Charles Muka said officers freed Obodo and arrested several of his suspected kidnappers, who had not even left the oil-producing state where he was abducted on Saturday. Muka declined to say what led police to the kidnappers. Police and security agencies in Nigeria have traced suspects using their mobile phone transmissions in the past.

The kidnappers made contact with the international football player's family in Warri shortly afterward abducting him, making a ransom demand of $187,500, Muka said.

Lecce was relegated to a second-tier league this season, while Udinese finished third in Serie A this season.

Kidnappings remain common in the Niger Delta, a region that provides about 2.4 million barrels of oil a day for Nigeria. Gangs and militants once only targeted foreign oil workers, but in recent years have increasingly gone after middle- and upper-class Nigerians there.

Nigerian football players and their families have been targeted in the past by kidnappers. In August, two Nigerian soldiers and others took part in the kidnapping of Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel's father from Jos in central Nigeria, and at one point demanded a $4 billion ransom they considered "chicken change" for the team, officials said. Authorities later traced Mikel's father to the northern city of Kano and freed him.

In 2008, gunmen abducted the younger brother of Everton defender Joseph Yobo as he left a nightclub in Port Harcourt, the delta's largest city. The brother was released unharmed about two weeks later, though it was unclear if a ransom had been paid.

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