Nigeria Group MEND: Chevron Hostages May Be Released on May 30

LONDON May 01, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswires)

A well-known Nigerian militant group on Tuesday said it would release six foreign oil workers of U.S. oil major Chevron Corp. (CVX) on May 30 so long as no rescue effort is undertaken to procure their release.

In an e-mail to the media, the group said it abducted the workers early Tuesday to embarrass outgoing Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and to warn his successor, Alhaji Musa Yar'Adua, about the challenges he faces.

Yar'Adua won in widely disputed elections in April.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has abducted and attacked oil installations for over a year in Nigeria's main producing region in its effort to control some of the area's oil resources.

The release of the hostages "will only be possible if the oil companies and Bayelsa state government make no attempts to secure the release of these hostages by offering ransom. Any such offers will be viewed as a slight and will compound the situation of these hostages," the group said.

Four Italians, one American and one Croatian were abducted during the assault Tuesday. One Nigerian sailor, who was part of a naval group escorting the oil vessel, was killed during the attack, according to a Nigerian Navy spokesman.

MEND went on to say its attack was "intended to serve as a warning to Shell concerning its return to fields we have previously attacked in Bayelsa and Delta states," referring to two of the big oil producing states in southern Nigeria.

Nigerian Oil Minister Edmund Daukoru said recently that some of Shell's long-shut oil production is targeted to begin returning to service at the end of May, although Shell has said it will only restart production in the country when it is safe to do so.

Shell has borne the brunt of militants' attacks against oil facilities in Nigeria.

MEND's e-mail message was sent by the group's self-described public representative known as Jomo Gbomo who has frequently sent e-mails warning about attacks and oil worker abductions to the media. For over a year, Gbomo has sent out detailed reports to reporters after MEND launched attacks and abducted oil workers.

The accounts, along with threats of future attacks that later occurred and Gbomo's knowledge of the movement of abducted oil workers, have supported the person's claim to be close to MEND's leadership.

The group's attack Tuesday forced Chevron to shut in 15,000 barrels a day of production near the Funiwa oil field, off the coast of the southern Nigerian state, Bayelsa.

Copyright (c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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