Nigeria to hand over released hostages

20:01, November 18, 2010      

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Nigeria is to hand over the 19 released hostages at Port Harcourt, the military said on Thursday.

Officials and representatives of companies gathered at an air force base of Port Harcourt for the hand-over, according to media reports.

Nigerian troops operating in the oil-rich Niger Delta region on Wednesday said it rescued 19 hostages during a flusing out of criminals confrontation it had with regrouped militants in the area. The rescued hostages were kidnapped at different locations in the oil rich region within two weeks.

A military source confirmed the release to Xinhua on phone from the troops base in southeast Nigeria's Bayelsa State.

"Yes...the hostages were rescued by our men, but we are still gathering more report from the field," the source said.

The Joint Task Force (JTF) had on Tuesday said in a statement that they are flushing out criminals in the region.

"You will recall that in the last few weeks, criminal gangs masquerading as militants have been engaging in all atrocities, like kidnapping, sea robbery and illegal boarding of oil production platforms," the statement said.

"The Joint Task Force is currently in an operation to rid the Niger Delta of these criminal elements in order for the region to experience the needed peace and security which are imperatives for sustainable development," it added.

"All law abiding indigenes of the communities hosting these criminals are advised to remain calm and promptly report suspicious characters to relevant military authorities," the statement quoted regional military spokesperson Timothy Antigha as saying.

Nigeria's main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), has claimed responsibility for the attacks on the ExxonMobil Ibeno oil facility and the London-based oil exploration firm Afren offshore oil rig.

The militant group re-emphasized that it will launch a major operation that will simultaneously affect oil facilities across the Niger Delta in the coming weeks.

The group is known for a series of attacks on international oil companies in the Niger Delta, engaging in actions including sabotage, theft, property destruction, guerilla warfare and kidnapping.

The Niger Delta is an unstable area where inter-ethnic clashes are commonplace. Access to oil revenue is the trigger for the violence.

Over 300 foreigners have been seized in the Niger Delta since 2006. Almost all have been released unharmed after paying a ransom.

Source: Xinhua


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