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Nigerian militants threaten to take more hostages

By Staff
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WARRI, Nigeria, Feb 22 (Reuters) Nigerian militants holding nine foreign oil workers hostage threatened today to take more Western captives from cities in the southern Niger Delta and threatened more attacks on the oil industry.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, whose attacks have already cut Nigerian oil exports by a fifth, said in an email that they had no plans to release the nine men, who were snatched from a barge run by US oil services company Willbros on Saturday.

''To heap further embarrassment on the Nigerian government, we will pick expatriates from cities in the Niger Delta. It is assumed our capabilities are limited to the creeks,'' said the movement in an email.

The militants have so far struck oil installations located deep in the remote swamps and creeks of the vast wetlands region.

''We do not have need for hostages, but took these to demonstrate the ease with which we can strike.'' Delta State Governor James Ibori said earlier that negotiations were progressing very well and that militants were delaying the release of the hostages only because they were not confident that the military would not attack Ijaw villages again, after bombing several communities last week.

''The man resides in a dream world,'' the militants said.

''We have killed and realize that we will lose our own. He's trying to buy time. He is not getting these people,'' they said, adding that they had not decided what to do with the hostages.

Royal Dutch Shell has stopped 455,000 barrels per day of Nigerian exports, equivalent to one fifth of supplies from the world's eighth-largest exporter, after the militants blew up their main loading platform on the western side of the delta, and sabotaged three pipelines.

''More attacks will follow at places and times of our choosing,'' the militants said.

Reuters SBJ VP0010

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