Britons among hostages seized by oil rebels
Militants have released eight foreign oil workers they kidnapped last week from an offshore oil rig in Nigeria. The rig's owner says six Britons, a Canadian and a US national were seized by armed men in the Niger Delta. No-one admitted responsibility. Workers sent out a distress call, saying it was under attack from between 20 and 30 men in speedboats.
The upsurge of attacks on foreign oil interests has cut Nigeria's oil production by 25 per cent - a key factor in the high world price of crude oil. Rebels responded ruthlessly to plans announced by President Olusegun Obasanjo to 'improve' their troubled region by killing at least two people with a car bomb in Port Harcourt last month. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) also renewed its threat to continue armed attacks on oil installations.
MEND said the offer of thousands more jobs and a new motorway did not address their demands for more local control of oil wealth and demilitarisation. Mend have kidnapped foreign oil workers and warned them to leave the Delta. In a statement, Mend said the government was trying to remedy 50 years of injustice with the promise of menial jobs.
"We do not need any further mismanagement of the fast diminishing resources of our land by the award of bogus contracts intended to channel the wealth of the Niger Delta back to the hands of those who have looted ... all these years," it said.
Earlier, Mr Obasanjo told officials from the troubled states that new jobs would be created in the military, police and the state oil company.
Announcing the new jobs and a $1.8bn ( £1bn) motorway project, President Obasanjo told state representatives at a council designed to speed development in the region that the meeting was "a wonderful opportunity for a new beginning".
Grievances A statement from Mend sent to Reuters restated a warning to oil companies operating in the Niger Delta "and more especially workers for such companies, to leave while they can. Our halt in attacks was more of a tactical suspension which has come to its end," it said.
"At a time of our choosing we will resume attacks with greater devastation and no compassion on those who choose to disregard our warnings."
Armed rebels launched a wave of daring attacks across Nigeria's troubled Niger delta, blowing up oil installations and seizing nine foreign workers including a Briton in February. All of the hostages have now been released.
Submitted by Editor on Sun, 06/04/2006 - 13:23
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