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Cameroon militia threaten to kill oil workers

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Cameroon militia threaten to kill oil workers

Post  Admin on Fri Oct 31, 2008 8:34 am

YAOUNDE, Cameroon – A Cameroon militia group took 10 mostly foreign oil workers hostage Friday off the West African nation's coast, and threatened to kill the captives if demands for autonomy talks with the government are not met.

Militia commander Ebi Dari told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location that his group and an allied militia seized six French, two Cameroonians, one Senegalese and one Tunisian from a boat off Cameroon's coast early Friday.

"We want to talk to the Cameroon government," Dari said. He added: "If they think this is child's play, we are going to kill them in three days, one by one."

Stephanie Elbaz, spokeswoman for maritime services company Bourbon that owns the tug boat Bourbon Sagitta, said armed attackers riding speedboats boarded the vessel at an oil terminal early Friday and made off with the hostages, leaving five other crew members aboard.

Dari, the leader of the Niger Delta Defense and Security Council, said the attack had been carried out in conjunction with an allied militia, the Bakassi Freedom Fighters. Both groups have operated since 2002 in Bakassi, a tongue of oil-rich land that has been disputed between Cameroon and Nigeria for years.

Cameroon took full control of Bakassi in August after an arduous peace agreement, but militias including Dari's have waged low-level attacks on Cameroon troops. They say Bakassi should have more autonomy, and possibly full independence from Cameroon.

The volatile region neighbors Nigeria's troubled oil-rich Niger Delta, where oil worker kidnappings carried out by Nigerian militias claiming a greater share of oil wealth are commonplace.

The oil-rich Gulf of Guinea is among the world's most-pirated waters, along with the shipping lanes near Somalia and Indonesia.

Elbaz said the hijackers arrived in three speedboats. She gave no further information about the fate of the 10 hostages, citing a need for discretion. The crew are all employees of Bourbon, she added.

The 213-foot (65-meter) Chinese-built tug, the Bourbon Sagitta, was designed for work with the offshore oil industry and is equipped with a firefighting system. It can take 28 crew, according to Bourbon's Web site.

The tug was operating in support of an oil tanker that was being loaded with crude, said French oil giant Total. A company spokesman, Paul Florin, said Total owns the buoy the tanker was attached to. He said the attack occurred about 9 miles (15 kilometers) off the Cameroon coast and about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the border with the neighboring nation of Nigeria.

On Wednesday, Bourbon suspended operations in the Bonny River region of Nigeria after armed men boarded one of its boats there. After spending several hours aboard the Ajax, the men made off with material and crew members' personal property, a statement said. None of the crew was injured in the incident.


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