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Mail & Guardian Online: Nigerian militants promise to release oil workers

Mail & Guardian Online (South Africa)
Dulue Mbachu
Militants holding four foreign hostages in Nigeria claimed on Sunday they would release the captives soon, according to a statement purportedly from the militant group.
The hostages — an American, a Briton, a Bulgarian and a Honduran — were seized near a Shell oil field on January 11 by a group that also claimed responsibility for other oil industry attacks that have cut Nigerian production by almost 10%.
“We promise that they would soon join their families, hale and hearty enough to tell the true story of a revolution,” the statement e-mailed to The Associated Press (AP) said.
The identity of the e-mail's authors could not be independently confirmed and no name was attached to it. But the statement came from an e-mail address known to be used by the Movement for the Emancipation of the People of the Niger Delta, which has claimed responsibility for a series of recent attacks on the country's oil
On Saturday, the group's leader told the AP by telephone that American hostage Patrick Landry was sick and warned that if he dies, his group would kill the remaining hostages.
The militants are demanding the release of two imprisoned figureheads of their ethnic Ijaw group and have threatened more attacks on oil facilities. They claim to be fighting for a greater local share of oil wealth they believe is being unfairly snapped up by foreign companies and the federal government.
One day after the four oil workers were seized, a major Shell pipeline leading to its Forcados export terminal was blown up the following day, and more attacks followed in other areas.
Shell — the largest oil producer in Opec member Nigeria — has evacuated hundreds of workers from the Niger delta since the unrest began. The company has cut off production amounting to nearly 10% of Nigeria's crude output.
On Friday, the US State Department called for the release of the four captives, while a British diplomat said his country was pressing Nigeria not to use force to free them.
The militants are demanding the government release militia leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari and former Bayelsa Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. They are also demanding $1,5-billion in compensation from Shell for alleged environmental
Dokubo-Asari was jailed in September on treason charges, while Alamieyeseigha faces extradition to Britain, after jumping bail there on charges of money laundering.
The kidnapped workers are employed by two companies contracted by Shell in the delta: Britain's Ecodrill and Tidewater of Louisiana.
Nigeria, Africa's leading oil producer, exports 2,5-million barrels of oil daily and is the fifth-biggest source of United States oil imports.
The crisis, along with concern over the Iranian nuclear dispute and new threats of attacks on the United States by al-Qaeda, has helped push world oil prices up. On Friday, light, sweet crude for February delivery rose 54 cents to $67,35 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by afternoon in Europe. – Sapa-AP

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