Nigerian militants hijack vessel, kidnap 15

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Nigeria‘s most prominent militant group says one of its affiliate groups have hijacked a vessel in the Niger Delta and kidnapped 15 of its passengers.

“The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) can confirm that an affiliate group hijacked the MV Spirit yesterday in Delta state and have taken 15 foreign crew members hostage,” the militant group said in an emailed statement this morning.

 

It was not possible to independently verify the claim, Reuters says.

 

MEND, a loose coalition of militant groups, on Thursday gave oil companies an additional 48 hours to evacuate their staff in the Niger Delta and threatened to attack helicopters and planes after the deadline.

 

MEND yesterday ordered oil workers to leave the area within 24 hours following heavy clashes between MEND and security forces.

“Considering the extension of time plea by some oil companies, we are extending our quit deadline by another 48 hours to enable complete staff evacuation.

“Effective 0000 Hrs on Saturday, May 16, 2009, the entire Niger Delta region will be declared a no-fly zone to helicopters and float planes operating on behalf of oil companies,” it said.

MEND further adds it attacked and destroyed five military gunboats and support vessels in Delta state.

The military denied the claim, saying there were no reports of such an attack.

“There has not been any attack this morning. It’s propoganda they are foolishly engaging in,” said Colonel Rabe Abubakar, spokesman for the military taskforce in the Niger Delta, home to Africa‘s biggest oil industry.