Militants: No deal on hostages

Nigerian militants holding four foreign hostages disassociated themselves on Monday from “bounty hunters” talking with the government on their behalf, and said the captive oil workers would not be released.

Government officials had on Sunday raised hopes of a release soon after receiving a recent photograph of the hostages at a meeting with a person they believed was a credible go-between with the militants.

“Be assured the hostages will not be released,” the militants said in an e-mail to Reuters. “These are lots of individuals who can be likened to bounty hunters seeking the release of the hostages … They are going nowhere. Rather we intend to add to their number.”

The hostages were abducted from an offshore oilfield on January 11 by militants who have demanded the release of two ethnic Ijaw leaders and waged a month-long campaign of sabotage against pipelines and platforms in the world’s eighth-largest oil exporter.

Nigerian oil output has fallen by 10 percent.

“There has been no negotiation, not to talk of a deal,” the militants said.

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