Posted by AFP on
Nigeria -Nigerian officials have made contact with an armed group holding four foreign oil workers in order to negotiate their release, Information Minister Frank Nweke said on Thursday.
WARRI, Nigeria -Nigerian officials have made contact with an armed group holding four foreign oil workers in order to negotiate their release, Information Minister Frank Nweke said on Thursday.
Separatist militants seized the four men - an American, a Bulgarian, a Briton and a Honduran working for subcontractors to the energy giant Shell - on January 11 and have vowed not to release them until their demands are met.
In an interview with the US news network CNN, Nweke said that Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo had ruled out a military response to the crisis and had ordered negotiators to seek a "political solution".
"We have no doubt in our minds that this is going to come to an end very very quickly. In a few days the team should revert to the president with a status report and we’ll hopefully see these people’s release," he said.
The minister could not, however, clarify the growing confusion over who exactly has taken the men.
There is a consensus that the gang, which has also recently blown up oil pipelines and attacked government soldiers protecting a Shell oil plant, is made up of militant members of the Ijaw ethnic group.
But several e-mail claims of responsibility have been sent to the media, and it is not clear who exactly the attackers represent.
Nweke said that some prominent figures initially thought to have been behind the kidnap had come forward to deny involvement and that the government was not sure whom it was dealing with.
Most of the e-mail statements, however, have demanded the release of jailed Ijaw guerrilla leader Mujahi Dokubo Asari and the former Bayelsa governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who has been accused of large-scale embezzlement.