MEND Frees 7 Hostages

Seven oil workers who were kidnapped from an offshore oil field in the Niger Delta were released Monday after two days in captivity, according to their captors, Movement fro the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) and police sources. MEND said the release was due to the intervention of Henry Okah who is being held in Angola.

An email from Jomo Gbomo to the media dissociated MEND from an earlier statement signed by a group claiming to be MEND.

“Firstly, we want to dissociate ourselves from the statement purported to have been issued from MEND and signed by one Don Pedro regarding the current attack on the Shell EA fields.”

The foreign hostages are British, Croatian and South African. Shell originally reported that the South African was Russian.

“The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) hereby confirm that the raid on the EA oil fields operated by Shell and the capture of seven (7) oil workers was indeed carried out by its gallant fighters on Saturday, October 20, 2007 in Bayelsa state of Nigeria.

“This attack was not about any single individual, but in furtherance of our pledge to resume attacks and abductions in pursuance of our objective which is the complete control of our natural resources as outlined in our statement of September 23, 2007.

“Rather than negotiate along these lines, the government and oil majors have chosen to employ the services of thugs and corrupt politicians who want to line their personal pockets, to cause confusion and sabotage the aspirations of the people of the Niger Delta.

“The hostages have been released due to the personal intervention of Henry Okah, but the attacks will continue so that the government will realise that for real peace to prevail, justice must be addressed. We have just shown that the presence of the military in oil facilities does not deter an attack.” The email signed by Jomo Gbomo concluded.

The Niger Delta has been the scene of frequent disputes between oil companies and communities who have for years demanded a greater share of the wealth in Africa’s largest crude producer. The region remains desperately poor despite its great natural bounty.

About 100 foreign workers have been kidnapped this year.

The government of President Umaru Yar’Adua has stepped up efforts to calm the region, and violence has waned since he took power May 29. The latest attacks could set back plans for formal talks between the government and the main armed groups.

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