Newspaper reports 4 more hostages taken

We are confused by this report and can’t get confirmation from any other source. As people are already talking about it we thought we’d post it. Can anyone shed any light on this?

From today’s Guardian Newspaper…

FOUR more hostages were taken yesterday by militants who attacked an oil vessel of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) off the Atlantic Ocean.

The hostages were two Britons, Pat Crawlay and Niger Watson-Clark; and two unnamed persons said to be from Honduras.

The attackers who arrived the E.A. Field where Shell is producing oil from its Sea Eagle vessel around 3.00 p.m. were said to have shot their way to a security vessel – Liberty Service – operated by Tidex, an oil servicing company working for the SPDC.

It was in the process that the four hostages were reportedly taken.

The attack was said to have apparently caught the securitymen on board pants down.

One of the hostages was said to have been injured in the fierce exchange of fire, which ensued between the attackers and the naval men who came to the rescue of the oil workers.

As at press time, the group that calls itself Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which claimed responsibility for the January “abduction of four hostages has also claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attack. The Guardian was informed by sources in Shell that its Community Relations Department officials have not in recent times, complained of any difficulty with communities in the deep-water areas.

“We are not sure of who these people are. They certainly cannot be from any nearby community since where the vessel is operating is offshore. We have not been told why they invaded our platform and took our workers hostage. Nobody has made any claim yet. Our community relations people said they don’t have problem with any community around the area,” a Shell official said.

In the January 11 attack of a flow station of SPDC, Mr. Milko Nichev (Bulgarian), Mr. Harry Ebanks (Honduran), Mr. Patrick Arnold Landry (American) and Mr. Nigel Watson-Clark (British) were taken hostage and have not been released in spite of all entreaties.

The Guardian learnt that the invaders destroyed the communication system of the vessel making it difficult for Shell to effectively communicate with the remaining workers on board. But by last night, Shell officials were able to track the vessel through its satellite radar system and it was said to be sailing towards Port Harcourt.

The E.A oilfield is said to produce 120,000 barrels per day. The source disclosed that production in this oilfield would be grossly affected if those held hostage are not immediately secured and security around the platform beefed up. He explained that the company would not want to risk the life of anyone working for it offshore or elsewhere, adding that some workers on board the vessel have been evacuated to Warri pending the restoration of normalcy in the area.

Meanwhile, President Olusegun Obasanjo, reacting to Tuesday’s attacks by gunmen on oil facilities and banks within the Agip compound in Port Harcourt, describing it as “sad.”

He also directed the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Sunday Ehindero to track down the perpetrators and forestall any reoccurrence of such or related incident.

The President told a meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) before he left for Davos, Switzerland, that he could no longer tolerate such incidents.

He expressed his condolences to the families of the eight policemen and one civilian who lost their lives in the attacks.

Ten persons, including some policemen, were reportedly shot dead by militants who attacked two banks within the premises of Agip Oil Company off a jetty in the oil city.

Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr. Frank Nweke Jr., told journalists at the end of the meeting that the Federal Government was fully committed to the security of all Nigerians and expatriates who do legitimate business in the country and would take steps to permanently stop such incidents.

According to him: “Mr. President was deeply saddened by the development in Port Harcourt and extends his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. He is in contact with the Rivers State Governor and he has also been briefed by the Inspector-General of Police. The Federal Government is committed to the security of everyone in the country and to ensure that people do their business unmolested. The government will take appropriate steps to stop these incidents and these people will be tracked down.”

The Council also approved N250 million for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to modify, maintain and expand its hardware and software facilities at its headquarters and zonal offices ahead of the 2007 general elections. About N180 million of the amount will be required for the job at the headquarters, while N70 million will be for the zones.

Nweke would, however, not confirm if the measure was meant specifically for the electronic voting that INEC has insisted on using for the elections.

The concept of one-stop shop to attract investment and stimulate economic growth by quickening transactions with strategic government agencies, was further endorsed by the Council, which approved N100 million for its immediate take-off.

Nweke explained that the idea is to bring representatives of the relevant agencies to a central building at strategic points in the country where they could easily aid investors and businessmen in co-ordinating transactions without requiring them to criss-cross the city or the country.

President Obasanjo has directed that the one-stop investment shop start by next month.

Such expedited transactions could be registration of business names and companies, payment of duties and taxes, buying of land and inquiries about contract bidding and business proposals among others, the minister said.

The first phase is billed to start in Abuja, and will initially involve the Corporate Affairs Commission, Nigeria Immigrations, Nigeria Customs, Federal Inland Revenue Service, NOPTAP, the Ministries of Finance, Federal Capital Territory and Solid Minerals, Standards Organisation of Nigeria, and National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

More contracts were approved for the construction of erosion control measures in Ebonyi State (N401 million) and consultancy services for engineering design of a 75.6-kilometre road and abridge across Bayelsa and Delta states (N134 million).

However, the Bayelsa State Government said yesterday it has confirmed that the hostages kidnapped by militant Ijaw youths a forthnight ago are still alive and well.

The state Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism Mr. Azibolanri Nelson, who disclosed this in the Government House, Yenagoa, shortly after the state executive council meeting, also asserted that the hijack did not take place within Bayelsa State’s territorial boundary.

“When you raise the issue of the 200 metres Isobar, if you look at it critically, where the hostages were taken is beyond the 200 metres Isobar and therefore is not the territories of Bayelsa” he said.

The commissioner affirmed that the government and community leaders are very close to securing the release of the hostages. “Contrary to rumours, nobody is dead as government has sighted pictures of hostages,” he further stated.

According Nelson, “preliminary investigation indicated that youths from Rivers, Ondo, Delta and Bayelsa carried out the operation”.

At the Executive meeting he said, so many reasons were considered for youths unruliness region.

He said though most Bayelsans believe that the reason for the restiveness was youth unemployment or the challenges of the of Nigeria nation, the state government was determined to find a lasting solution to the problems of the youths in the state.

The commissioner regretted that the hostage taking has given the state a bad name and appealed to the hijackers to urgently release the hostages so as to redeem the image of the state and not spoil the struggle for resource control.

Meanwhile, the Delta State government has also dismissed the claim by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly that the youths who carried out the attack where from Delta.

However, according to some reports, the hijackers had claimed that they are Ijaw youths drawn from all Ijaw speaking communities in the Niger Delta as their main demand was the release of two prominent Ijaw leaders.

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