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Nigerian militants: UK hostage to be freed soon

world Updated: Apr 19, 2009 22:18 IST

AP
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Nigeria's main militant group said on Sunday that it plans to release a British hostage held captive for more than six months.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that Robin Barry Hughes will be freed "very soon." The group said it was putting safety measures into place for Hughes' release.

The group said no ransom had been paid. Hughes was among 27 oil workers kidnapped by militants when their vessel was hijacked in early September. The militant group said Matthew John Maguire, who was taken in the same incident with Hughes, was not going to be released along with his British compatriot. The other hostages have been released.

A spokeswoman for the British High Commission, or embassy, in Nigeria said she was aware of the militants' statement, but had no further information. The spokeswoman, who asked not to be named in keeping with governmental regulations, called for the "immediate and unconditional" release of both UK hostages. Hundreds of kidnappings have been reported in the southern Niger Delta in recent years, and the practice appears to be spreading into other parts of Africa's most populous nation and biggest oil producer.

The militant group spearheaded the practice of seizing oil workers, with the stated political aim of forcing the government to increase its region's share of federally controlled petroleum industry funds.

But the practice has been taken up by ransom-seeking criminals in the oil region and, increasingly, beyond. Kidnappings of foreigners weeks have been reported in recent weeks in three states outside the southern Niger Delta oil areas, including a Canadian woman taken Thursday in northern Kaduna state.