Kidnappers Are Terrorists �U.S.

The crisis in the Niger-Delta region further deteriorated yesterday with officials of the United States of America insisting that the militant youths who kidnapped oil workers were in fact terrorists. With that stance, the US has ruled out the possibility of negotiating with the kidnappers.

State Department officials told Saturday Independent that while the administration was in consultation with Abuja, it would not officially step into the matter because “The U.S does not negotiate with terrorists”.

Patrick Landry, a 61-year-old resident of Houston, Texas, was one of four hostages abducted by gunmen off the coast of Nigeria and taken captive on January 11.

Indeed, the militant Martyrs Brigade, Friday, claimed responsibility for the blowing up of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipelines along Agbor Road, Benin City last Wednesday.

The pipelines, the group said, was blown up by its forces about 10.58 pm.

The kidnappers had called Reuters news agency early Thursday to say Landry was ill and could die.

According to Reuters, the hostages spoke of deteriorating conditions. One of the kidnappers got on the phone and said Landry was seriously ill and the other three men in custody would be killed if he died. Landry suffers from high blood pressure and high cholesterol, his son, Dwight Landry, told reporters.

He added that he was concerned because his father did not have enough medication with him.

“His health is not good and we’re just really, really concerned with his life at this point,” Dwight Landry said.

“We love him, we’re praying for him and we’re doing everything we can to get him home as soon as we can.”

Steve Dick, Executive Vice President of Tidewater , employers of Landry, said his company was working with Shell Oil executives, Nigerian authorities to ensure the safe return of the hostages. He added that the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria had entered into dialogue with the kidnappers to secure the release of the hostages.

“This is the highest priority for us, and Shell has assured us that their release is of highest priority for them as well,” Dick said.

Landry, a vessel captain for Shell contractor, Tidewater, was making a daily run in his ship to an offshore oil rig along with his crew; a Bulgarian, a Honduran and a British Shell employee when three speedboats carrying militants armed with rocket propelled grenades and other weapons approached, his son said.

The U.S. government, Tidewater and Landry’s family learned about the kidnapping through Reuters, which first received a phone call Monday from the hostages, who read their captors� demands.

The abductors, members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, demanded the release of two of their leaders and greater local control over the region’s vast oil resources.

Landry has worked for Tidewater for more than 30 years, in a job that has taken him across the globe, according to his son.

He said his father had been in Nigeria for about six weeks at the time of the kidnapping. U.S. State Department officials said oil-related kidnappings of Westerners had become a frequent occurrence in recent months and has warned all Americans to take extra security precautions while in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the President-General of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Professor Joe Irukwu, declined comments when asked if the body was making any efforts to secure the release of the hostages.

Professor Irukwu in an interview with Saturday Independent after addressing a press conference at the Airport Hotel in Lagos said that he would not want to comment on the issue.

The Chairman of the Southern Forum, Ambassador M.T Mbu, said that the matter was already receiving attention from the highest quarters as the Federal Government has set up a committee to ensure the release of the hostages.

�A high powered committee made up of governors from the zone has been set up and I can assure you that everything necessary is being done to get the four foreigners off the hook�.

The militant�s pronouncement that they were responsible for the blowing up of the NNPC pipeline came just as Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Shell, confirmed the recovery of the body of another civilian victim, said to be missing since the attack on the Benisede flowstation, in Bayelsa State following the abduction of its four expatriate contractors. The victim is said to be a Shell catering contractor.

The crisis in the region has already led to the shutting down of four flow stations and a total production loss of some 221,000 barrels per day.

Spokesperson of the militant group, Cynthia Whyte, in a statement made available to our reporter online claimed that the operations marked the beginning of its major onslaught against the Federal Government and the foreign oil companies in the Niger Delta.

The Martyrs Brigade said it blew up the pipelines to draw attention to the refusal of the federal authorities to develop the Niger-Delta area which it described as the richest but poorest in infrastructural development in the history of any oil-producing nation.

“The Niger-Delta has a population of almost 20 million people spread out in more than 5,000 communities. The region has about 5,500 oil wells, 235 flow stations and about 7,000 km of pipeline/flow lines in almost 31,000 square kilometers of space.

“Today, with all these wealth, these communities provide the perfect description of poverty, squalor, deprivation and neglect, parading a per capita income of less than $100.

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