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Gunmen threaten to kill French hostages in Cameroon
Fri Oct 31, 2008 10:28am EDT
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By Tansa Musa
YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Gunmen in speedboats seized 10 mostly French crew members in an attack on an oil vessel off Cameroon on Friday and threatened to kill them "one by one" if the Cameroonian government did not meet their demands.
A spokeswoman for oil services firm Bourbon said the 10 kidnapped workers were among 15 employees on board the vessel "Bourbon Sagitta," contracted by French oil major Total, when it was attacked early on Friday.
Two allied militia groups from Cameroon's Bakassi peninsula claimed responsibility and threatened to start killing the hostages if the Cameroonian government did not meet their demands within three days.
Bakassi was handed over to Cameroon by Nigeria earlier this year after a decades-long border dispute. Many Nigerian residents opposed the handover and militia groups similar to the well-armed gangs of Nigeria's nearby Niger Delta have sprung up.
"I personally led the attack during which we seized 10 men whom we are holding as I am talking to you now," Colonel Ebi Dari, a Niger Delta Defense and Security Council (NDDSC) commander, told Reuters in Cameroon by phone.
"If the Cameroon government does not respond to our requests in three days' time, we will start killing them one by one," Dari said. He said the attack was carried out jointly with another group called the Bakassi Freedom Fighters (BFF).
Dari did not detail his demands, but said Cameroon's government should contact the groups, which began a string of attacks on Cameroonian military forces in the run-up to Bakassi's handover on August 14.
Before that, the NDDSC had demanded Cameroon and Nigeria renegotiate the terms of a World Court ruling that recognized Cameroon's ownership of Bakassi, which the group said ignored the views of local people.
Since the handover, the NDDSC has also demanded compensation for Nigerians from Bakassi who chose to leave and settle in Nigeria, along with the release of two militia members seized by Cameroon during one of the attacks.
Dari said those kidnapped comprised seven French, two Cameroonians and a Senegalese, though Bourbon said there were only six French citizens along with one Tunisian worker.
The company said no one was hurt in the attacks.
Gunmen in three speedboats attacked the ship while it was helping an oil tanker loading crude oil at an offshore oilfield in the Gulf of Guinea, the company spokeswoman said.
She said the company was working closely with the French Foreign Ministry for the quick release of the hostages.
Heavily armed gunmen in fast launches have in the last year preyed on oil installations, oil and fishing boats and even coastal towns in a region that contains the main African source of crude oil exported to the West and China. Continued...
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