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Las Vegas Sun: Militants to Hold Hostages Indefinitely

Today: December 08, 2006 at 10:20:16 PST
By KATHARINE HOURELD
ASSOCIATED PRESS
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) –

A militant group in Nigeria’s oil-rich delta said Friday it will hold four foreign hostages “indefinitely” to press for the release of two of the region’s jailed leaders and compensation from an oil company for alleged pollution.

The three Italian workers and one Lebanese man were taken captive Thursday in a raid on an oil export terminal operated by Agip, a subsidiary of Italian oil firm Eni SpA.

The group also threatened to target oil company offices, vehicles and personnel with roadside bombs.

“The hostages captured in yesterday’s attack in Brass will be held indefinitely and will be exchanged only with hostages of Niger delta origin in Nigerian government hands,” the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, said in an e-mail. “We say to all oil companies in the delta, your nightmare has not even begun.”

The group, which launched a wave of kidnappings and attacks on oil pipelines earlier this year, has repeatedly called for the release of the two delta region leaders and payments from Royal Dutch Shell PLC for alleged environmental pollution.

But the government maintains that Mujahid Dokubo-Asari and former Gov. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha are criminals and has refused to release them.

Dokubo-Asari, who waged a struggle for autonomy for the 8 million Ijaws of the Niger delta, was jailed on treason charges in September 2005. Alamieyeseigha was arrested shortly afterward in Nigeria after fleeing Britain on money-laundering charges.

MEND added that Nigerians working at oil companies will be killed if they returned to installations that had been attacked.

A high-level Nigerian security officer said he had received reports that large amounts of explosives had been shipped into the delta. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not cleared to talk to the press.

In April, MEND claimed responsibility for two car bombs at an army barracks and an oil refinery in which two people were killed. MEND also warned that attacks were likely to continue “in the following days.”

Kidnappings are common in the swampy delta region, where most of the West African country’s oil is produced. Most captives are released unharmed, but myriad groups are believed to be behind the dozens of kidnappings that have occurred this year, some motivated by political goals, others by monetary gain. More than 70 foreigners have been taken so far this year.

Analysts say that MEND can be distinguished by their political demands, operational sophistication and access to weaponry. They claimed responsibility for two kidnappings in January and February in which groups of foreign workers were held for up to three weeks.

Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil exporter and the United States’ fifth-largest supplier, usually exporting 2.5 million barrels daily. The series of attacks since the beginning of this year has cut exports by 25 percent.

The West African country is due to host an OPEC meeting next week about 500 miles away from the delta region in the capital, Abuja.

On Friday, the U.S. Embassy issued a warning, saying that “a militant Niger delta group has reportedly recruited and trained militants for renewed attacks on oil installations and expatriate oil workers in the Niger delta region.”

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1 Comment on “Las Vegas Sun: Militants to Hold Hostages Indefinitely”

  1. #1 Will
    on Dec 19th, 2006 at 16:01

    Is Las Vegas a nice place to live? I heard Green Valley, Henderson and Summerlin are nice places to possibly?My friend live in Vegas and said the prices after a 5 yr. rise will fall about 6-8 percent in the next 2 yrs.Like they say it's all about the timing.Please commet back with some insight on Las Vegas.

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