Nigerian militant group releases hostage list

Nigeria’s main militant group in the oil-rich southern delta on Friday released a list of hostages it had taken from an attack on an offshore oil rig, with at least two names matching those of a United States and a Canadian worker believed to be held.

In an email, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta identified the seven men taken from a rig operated by London-based Afren — which includes two US workers, one Canadian, two French and two Indonesians. The email sent to journalists described the men as being “in good health and [they] will be in our custody for a while.”

“Our fighters [caused] extensive damage on this facility and attempted to set it ablaze as they were instructed to do,” the email read.

The list of seven names included that of James Robertson, a US worker on the rig for contractor Transocean. Local television stations in Mississippi earlier this week reported that Robertson, of Silver Creek, Mississippi, had been abducted during the attack Monday on the rig 11km off Nigeria’s coast.

The Canadian named is Bob Croke, a resident of Newfoundland, listed as working for a firm called PPI. He had earlier been identified as one of the hostages by a family member.


An Afren official reached Friday morning declined to comment. Guy Cantwell, a Houston-based spokesperson for Transocean, said his company would “neither confirm or deny” the information contained in the communinque. Transocean, the world’s largest offshore drilling contractor based in Zug, Switzerland, owned the rig doing the exploratory drilling.

The email said the two Indonesians were seized off a nearby support ship operated by contractor Century Energy Services. One of the abducted Frenchmen worked for Sodexo, a France-based catering company, while the other was identified as working for Transocean as well.

Two workers suffered injuries in the attack on Monday. The Sun Herald newspaper of Gulfport, Mississippi, reported on Friday that Mississippi resident James “Butch” Johnson (58) was one of the injured men. The newspaper said Johnson already had one surgery on his wounded leg and faces another operation next week.

Johnson said he believes the group that burst in was after money and didn’t intend to shoot him.

“They came in to be intimidating, shooting into the floor,” he said.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, also known by the acronym Mend, began a campaign of pipeline bombings and high-profile kidnappings in 2006. Militants in the delta, a region of winding creeks and mangroves about the size of South Carolina, want more oil money to come to an area still gripped by abject poverty and pollution after more than 50 years of oil production.

Several Mend commanders took part of a government-sponsored amnesty deal last year to lay down their weapons, but a faction remained active. Most recently, Mend claimed responsibility for an October 1 car bomb attack that struck Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, killing at least 12 people and wounding dozens more.

The hostage list came from a new email address previously not associated with the militant group. The group apparently has been changing email addresses after Henry Okah, an alleged gunrunner long thought to be a Mend leader, was arrested in South Africa on terrorism charges stemming from the October 1 attack. The group’s alliances, with reputed ties between politicians and criminal gangs that run the delta, make it difficult to say who now remains in control of the Mend name, analysts and security experts have said.

In the email on Friday, Mend also said it released three French workers and a Thai expatriate kidnapped September 22 during an attack on an offshore rig operated by Addax Petroleum. The workers were released from captivity on Wednesday after Mend claimed to have negotiated with their original kidnappers to take control of them.

“Owing to their generally poor state of health, we were compelled to release them on humanitarian grounds,” the statement read. – Sapa-AP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Jon Gambrell
Jon Gambrell works from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I am the Gulf and Iran news director for The Associated Press (@AP) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, by way of Egypt, Nigeria, Arkansas and many points between. Jon Gambrell has over 46736 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

How lottery execs received dubious payments through a private company

The National Lottery Commission is being investigated by the SIU for alleged corruption and maladministration, including suspicious payments made to senior NLC employees between 2016 and 2017

Pandemic hobbles learners’ futures

South African schools have yet to open for the 2021 academic year and experts are sounding the alarm over lost learning time, especially in the crucial grades one and 12

More top stories

Zuma, Zondo play the waiting game

The former president says he will talk once the courts have ruled, but the head of the state capture inquiry appears resigned to letting the clock run out as the commission's deadline nears

Disinformation harms health and democracy

Conspiracy theorists abuse emotive topics to suck the air out of legitimate debate and further their own sinister agendas

Uganda: ‘I have never seen this much tear-gas in an...

Counting was slow across Uganda as a result of the internet shutdown, which affected some of the biometric machines used to validate voter registrations.

No way out for Thales in arms deal case, court...

The arms manufacturer has argued that there was no evidence to show that it was aware of hundreds of indirect payments to Jacob Zuma, but the court was not convinced.
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…