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THE NEW YORK TIMES: Nigeria Militants Won''t Release Hostages

WARRI, Nigeria (AP) — Militants holding nine foreign hostages said Wednesday they have no plans to release their captives soon and accused Nigeria's government of wasting time in securing their freedom.
The oil workers, who include three Americans, two Egyptians, two Thais, one Briton and one Filipino, were seized Saturday by militants belonging to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.
The militants, who are pressing for the release of two of the region's leaders from prison and greater control of oil revenues, accused the Nigerian government of a ''time-wasting venture'' in searching for a high-level negotiation team.
''We have no immediate intention of setting these guys free,'' a spokesperson for the group said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
Government officials weren't immediately available for comment.
Recent attacks by the militant group on oil facilities in the West African nation — the United States' fifth-largest oil supplier — has cut production by nearly 20 percent and sent prices soaring on international markets.
The militants say they plan to widen their campaign across the vast region of swamps and creeks in southeastern Nigeria, where people remain deeply impoverished despite the great oil riches being pumped from beneath them.
Nigeria is reeling from weekend attacks in which the militants blasted oil and gas pipelines and sabotaged a key oil loading terminal belonging to Shell. That and an earlier attack has forced the company to halt the flow of about 455,000 barrels a day — about one-fifth of daily output.
Hostage takings are also a common occurrence in the volatile delta, but most are released unharmed. Last month, the militants held four foreigners for 19 days before releasing them unscathed.
Nigeria is Africa's leading oil exporter, usually exporting 2.5 million barrels daily.

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