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Business Week: Nigerian militia leader threatens attacks

Business Week: Nigerian militia leader threatens attacksAssociated Press/LAGOS, Nigeria
Associated Press Writer

An American worker held hostage in Nigeria is sick and his kidnappers will kill three fellow hostages if he dies, a militant leader threatened Saturday.
Brutus Ebipadei of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta did not offer details on the condition of Patrick Landry, a ship captain from Houston, or say why his group would kill hostages from Britain, Bulgaria and Honduras if he died.
“They're drinking the bad water we're drinking and experiencing the conditions our people have suffered for decades,” Ebipadei said.
If Landry dies, “we'll have no choice but to kill the remaining ones,” Ebipadei said. He did not say why.
Landry's son, Dwight, of Eunice, La., said in an interview Saturday that his father had a stroke in 1998 and had not taken his medication for high cholesterol and blood pressure since the Jan. 11 kidnapping.
Dwight Landry said he had heard an audio clip of his father asking that his captors' demands be met.
“I could hear the desperation in his voice, I could hear the panic and I could hear the fear,” he said.
Ebipadei said the kidnappers refused to negotiate and he reissued a threat to launch new attacks on installations in the oil-rich Niger Delta.
“Our demands are not negotiable. And failure to meet those demands means we will launch attacks on all oil installations to stop Nigeria's capacity to export oil,” Ebipadei said.
The militants demand the release of a former regional governor and a militant leader who pushed for greater local control of revenues from the delta. They also want $1.5 billion in compensation from Royal Dutch Shell, Nigeria's largest oil producer, for alleged environmental damage.
Nigeria, Africa's leading oil producer, exports about 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, making it the fifth-largest source of U.S. oil.
Militant members of the 8-million person Ijaw tribe that dominates the delta have long agitated for a greater share of oil wealth. Ebipadei has claimed responsibility for a spate of attacks that included the kidnapping of the four foreigners from a Shell oil platform last week.
A major Shell pipeline leading was blown up the next day and more attacks followed in other areas.
The attacks have cut the OPEC-member nation's crude output by nearly 10 percent. Shell has evacuated hundreds of workers since the unrest began.
Ebipadei said negotiators sent by the government to secure the hostages' release “are traitors to the Ijaw cause and we're not ready to deal with them.”
Officials nonetheless expressed optimism about negotiations.
“People are pleading with them, and the pleas are beginning to reach them,” state government spokesman Ekiyor Welson said.
On Friday, the State Department called for the release of the four captives, while a British diplomat said his country was pressing Nigeria not to use force to free them.
The militants are demanding the release of militia leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari and former Bayelsa state Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. Dokubo-Asari was jailed in September on treason charges, while Alamieyeseigha faces extradition to Britain, after jumping bail there on money laundering charges.
Problems in the Niger Delta, along with concern over the Iranian nuclear dispute and new threats of al-Qaida attacks on the U.S. helped push up oil prices Friday.
Britain's Press Association has identified the kidnapped Briton as Nigel Watson-Clark, a former paratrooper and father of three from Saltford who was working as a security officer.

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