Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

'New York Post' slammed for publishing ISIS execution images

Read more

DEBATE

Back to Square One?

Read more

DEBATE

Israel-Gaza: Back to Square One?

Read more

DEBATE

Israel-Gaza conflict: 72-hour ceasefire deal sets stage for Cairo talks

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users divided over Darren Wilson

Read more

FOCUS

Spain's El Hierro to become world's first self-powered island

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

A bellwether for what not to do

Read more

ENCORE!

Luc Besson back in action with Scarlett Johansson in 'Lucy'

Read more

FOCUS

Israel's minorities and military service

Read more

  • US forces tried to rescue slain reporter from IS captors

    Read more

  • Thailand coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha voted prime minister

    Read more

  • Interactive: Relive the Liberation of Paris in WWII

    Read more

  • US attorney general visits Missouri town after fatal shooting

    Read more

  • French village rallies behind besieged elderly British couple

    Read more

  • Brazil’s Silva launches bid after Campos plane crash death

    Read more

  • Netanyahu compares Hamas to IS, Gaza offensive to continue

    Read more

  • Brutal IS beheading video sparks social media pushback

    Read more

  • France’s ex-PM Juppé sets up presidential clash with Sarkozy

    Read more

  • France’s Hollande says global security ‘worst since 2001’

    Read more

  • France urges Iran, others in region, to join fight against IS

    Read more

  • A new view on Normandy landings, 70 years on

    Read more

  • Dozens killed as landslides strike Japan’s Hiroshima

    Read more

  • Suspected Ebola cases in Austria, new drug raises hopes

    Read more

  • WWII anniversary highlights best - and worst - of Paris police

    Read more

Africa

Nigerian rebels 'locate' abducted French workers

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-09-23

A day after three French workers and a Thai colleague were seized off the Nigerian coast, the main rebel group in the oil-rich delta region said Thursday it had located the four men and was negotiating their release.

Nigeria’s main rebel group in the oil-rich Niger Delta claimed to have located three French nationals and another hostage a day after they were seized. The group is trying to negotiate their release with their captors.

The three Frenchmen and a Thai colleague were seized in an overnight raid Wednesday after pirates boarded an oil industry supply vessel off the coast of Nigeria.

In a statement released Thursday, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said it could “confirm that it has located the three abducted French nationals and another individual” and that the group was “in negotiations with the abductors towards effecting a transfer of the men to the custody of MEND.”

One of the largest militant groups in the oil-rich yet poverty-stricken delta region, MEND claims to expose the oppression of the local inhabitants and the environmental devastation in the densely populated area.

Critics however accuse MEND of functioning as an umbrella for several armed groups that have attacked and exacerbated the conflict in the violence-ridden region.

Reporting for FRANCE 24 from the southern Nigerian city of Lagos, AFP correspondent Susan Njanji-Matetakufa said MEND’s latest statement was an attempt to reiterate that the shadowy group was not involved in the kidnapping of the three French and one Thai national.

TOP STORY - FRANCE HIT BY AFRICAN KIDNAPPINGS

“At the same time, MEND is trying to show that they are more on-the-ground than the authorities and they’re more familiar with the terrain,” said Njanji-Matetakufa.

The movement's insurgency badly hit oil operations in the Niger Delta from 2002 until last year, when thousands of fighters handed in their weapons under a government amnesty.

‘A classic act of piracy’

The abduction of the three Frenchmen in Nigeria was the second hostage crisis to grip French workers in West Africa following last week’s kidnapping of five Frenchmen in neighbouring Niger.

Al Qaeda's North African branch AQIM has claimed responsibility for last week’s kidnapping of five French nationals and two other foreigners working for French nuclear firm Areva and construction group Vinci.

In an interview with FRANCE 24 Wednesday, French Defence Minister Hervé Morin played down speculation that the hostage-takers may have had a political motive, noting that "everything points to it being a classic act of piracy."

The men's employer in Nigeria, French maritime services firm Bourbon, and the French foreign ministry said they had contacted the kidnapped workers' families and were working with Nigerian authorities to secure their release.

Bourbon has also set up a crisis cell in the French town of Marseille.

There have been no reports of ransom demands.

Conflicting reports on the raid

A Nigerian navy spokesman told the AFP that naval patrol boats tried to fight off the pirates in a gun battle overnight Wednesday that lasted more than two hours.

The Nigerian navy is responsible for patrolling the Niger Delta and guards offshore oil installations.

Navy spokesman David Nabaida told the AFP that the three French and a Thai seamen -- crew of the oil industry supply vessel -- were seized in the overnight raid on an oil platform off Bonny Island, Nigeria's main export terminal.

But the MEND statement, which was signed by spokesman Jomo Gbono, said the French crew and the Thai seaman were taken in separate incidents.

The statement however gave no details on who the kidnappers were.

The Gulf of Guinea, south of Nigeria, is one of the world's most notorious pirate hunting grounds, and ships working in the region's huge oil industry are often targeted by kidnap and ransom gangs.

Bourbon has been the target of several attacks in the past two years in the Niger Delta oil-producing area.

Nine Bourbon workers were taken hostage along with their ship in January last year and freed a few days later. In October 2008 another of its ships was seized by pirates off the Nigerian coast.

Date created : 2010-09-23

  • NIGERIA

    Three French nationals kidnapped off Nigerian coast

    Read more

COMMENT(S)