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Nigerian rebel group agrees to release two S African hostages
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16:02, September 16, 2008

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The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the most prominent rebel group in Nigeria's oil-rich south, agreed on Monday to released two South African hostages at the "earliest convenience".

According to a statement received here late Monday, MEND said that Mrs. Azuka Okah, wife of detained activist and MEND's former commander, Henry Okah, has sent a passionate appeal for MEND's assistance towards the release of the two South African hostages.

The statement said they were impressed by the South African government's respect for the rule of law as Azuka Okah has received respect and hospitality when she and her children are in South Africa.

"MEND will be reciprocating the gesture by releasing the two hostages to the care of the South African government representative at the earliest convenience after working out the modalities including safety concerns since the creek is now a war zone," said the statement.

According to the statement, two South Africans were kidnapped by pirates in Rivers state and was rescued by MEND.

The two South Africans, along with two Britons and a Ukrainian, were abducted on Sept. 10 when boarded on an oil supply vessel operating in waters within Nigeria's volatile Niger Delta region.

MEND, who is in intensive fight with Nigerian government forces, said Saturday that 27 hostages, including the five foreign oil workers, have been trapped in fighting zone in Eleme-Tombia, a riverside community in the Degema council area of Rivers State.

The battle, starting on early Saturday, is still going on, leaving about 30 dead and several oil facilities blown up.

Since the beginning of 2006, militant groups emerged in Niger Delta region, fighting for more local control of natural resources, especially oil, through way of kidnapping oil workers and attacks on oil facilities.

More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped and a string of attacks on oil pipelines, wells and terminals have been registered by now, which have led to about 25 percent oil production drop compared with the country's peak oil output of 2.6 million barrels per day.


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