Some of the most influential groups in Nigeria's Niger Delta are
seeking the release of two British oil workers a day after militants'
holding them said one of them was ill.
militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta,
MEND, said in an e-mailed statement that one of the British hostages in
its custody has contracted what it called a strange disease and was
very ill. It said a local doctor had been called in to treat him but
dismissed the possibility of freeing the sick hostage.
Delta Energy Development and Security Strategy, one of the region's
most influential pressure groups, says it is in talks with the rebel
group to release the British hostages. Spokesman for the group, Tony
Uranta, told VOA it is time to bring the four-month long hostage saga
"Either way, whether because of government's
negligence or reluctance or lack of speed to act, or MEND
non-compliance with certain rules of engagement, we do not think it is
in anybody's interest to hold the hostages for as long as they are
holding them. And we are very actively engaged, even now, in speaking
to members of the group to see how soon and how they are going to
affect the release of these poor men so that families can begin to
heave a sigh of relief," he said.
The two Britons were first
kidnapped in September with two South Africans, an Ukrainian and more
than 20 Nigerians when their supply vessel was hijacked off the coast
of the Niger Delta.
MEND then seized the men from their original
captors and released all of them except the Britons. The group says it
would hold the men until Henry Okah, the leader of MEND who is facing
gun-running and treason charges, was released.
The Niger Delta
previously produced 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, but output has
declined to less than two million barrels.
Since January 2006, 44 Britons and more than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in Nigeria. One Briton was killed.
Analysts say the slump in oil prices is making the Niger Delta even more dangerous as the money to tackle militancy dries up.