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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Nigerian Militants Warn Against Rescue Attempt

Associated Press
January 28, 2006 7:56 p.m.
LAGOS, Nigeria — Militants who claim to be holding four foreigners hostage in Nigeria's oil-rich delta warned the military Saturday against attempting to free them by force.
In a statement, the group claiming to hold the men accused the Nigerian government of planning military action with unidentified foreign countries “in a last ditch effort to release the hostages.”
“Any attempt to employ military force … shall be the greatest military mistake ever,” the statement said.
It was signed by Brutus Ebipadei, self-described leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, which claims to be holding the hostages. The statement's authenticity could not be independently verified, but it came from an address used by the same group in the past.
Two Nigerian newspapers Friday published a photograph of the hostages for the first time since their Jan. 11 abduction from an oil platform.
The photos published Friday showed the four — Patrick Landry of Texas, Briton Nigel Watson-Clark, Bulgarian Milko Nichev and Honduran Harry Ebanks — sitting on white plastic chairs under palm trees. Behind them were several men, one sitting next to several automatic rifles mounted on tripods.
The four appeared to be in good health. On the ground before each was a transparent bottle containing orange-colored juice.
In exchange for the hostages, the militant group is demanding the release of Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, the oil region's best-known militia leader, who was jailed in September on treason charges. The group is also calling on Royal Dutch Shell PLC to pay $1.5 billion in compensation for oil pollution.
The group has also claimed a string of attacks on pipelines and oil facilities that cut oil exports by nearly 10% in Nigeria, Africa's leading oil producer and the fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil imports.
The militants have also said they want to secure local control of oil wealth for the impoverished ethnic minorities in the Niger Delta, who accuse bigger ethnic groups from other regions of denying them access.
Over the past two decades, oil companies in the Niger Delta have faced frequent disruptions to their operations, including protests, pipeline sabotage and kidnappings.
Most hostages, however, have been freed within days after ransom payments, and rarely harmed.

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