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The New York Times: Nigerian Militants to Kill Hostages if US Man Dies

By REUTERS

LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigerian kidnappers said on Thursday their U.S. hostage was gravely ill and threatened to kill three other foreign oil workers held captive if he died.

A leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, whose month-long campaign against oil installations has driven up world oil prices, told Reuters by telephone that the health of U.S. oil worker Patrick Landry was failing.

“One of them is sick, badly sick and could give up tonight,'' said the man who identified himself as the ground commander of the movement. “If one of them dies, we kill them all.''

The hostages — who also include a Briton, a Honduran and a Bulgarian — complained by telephone of diarrhea and fatigue from constant movement in the humid, mosquito-plagued creeks of Nigeria's southern delta.

The workers appealed to their governments to press Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to meet the militants' demands for the release of ethnic Ijaw leaders and for local control over the region's oil wealth.

The Ijaw militant group said they have not received any contact from Nigeria's government and would not accept a ransom for the hostages, abducted nine days ago from an offshore oilfield operated bfor treason.

The kidnappers had earlier said they would not harm the hostages and had offered to free Landry, who suffers from high blood pressure, if his firm's managing director took his place. Landry works for U.S.-based oil service firm Tidex.

Amid rising north-south polarization in Africa's most populous country, some analysts believe the violence could be intended to reinforce the delta's claim over the choice of the ruling party candidate for presidential elections next year.

An Ijaw uprising before 2003 elections curbed 40 percent of Nigerian output.

So far, Shell is the only oil major to admit it has suffered at the hands of the Ijaw militants. France's Total and Italy's Agip, a unit of ENI, have both denied militant claims they were attacked.

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