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US hostage freed on birthday, five others also

Posted by By PHILIP NWOSU, Lagos and EMMANUEL OGOIGBE, Warri on 2006/03/01 | Views: 511 |

US hostage freed on birthday, five others also


The Niger Delta militants Wednesday, freed six hostages, including Macon Hawkins, the United States national, they seized 11 days ago. The US national had pleaded to be set free on or before March 1, 2006 for his birthday. He turned 69 Wednesday.

• Militants promise fresh attacks

The Niger Delta militants Wednesday, freed six hostages, including Macon Hawkins, the United States national, they seized 11 days ago. The US national had pleaded to be set free on or before March 1, 2006 for his birthday. He turned 69 Wednesday.

This is even as Ijaw youth, have asked Delta State Governor to explain why he neglected Ijaw land in the expenditure of the 13 percent derivation the state receives.

Freed along with Hawkins were two Egyptians, Bardese Mohammed and Aly Shady as well as Muado Somsak (Thailand), Arak Suwana (Thailand) and Tony Santos (Philippines). They were said to have been released on medical grounds.

Daily Sun gathered that the freed hostages were handed over the soldiers after the militants took journalists on tour of their stronghold. The freed hostages were in Delta State Government House last night at the time of filing this report.

A statement from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said the organisation decided to stick to the ethics of its cause by releasing some of the hostages.

The statement, signed by the leader of the militants, who claimed to be “General Brutus Ebipade,” also said the MEND would unleash terror on facilities of oil companies in the area before March 5, 2006.
“The revolution had decided to keep the ethics of her cause in the preservation of the basic right to humanity by establishing her resolve to carry the contents of her course to emancipate the Niger Delta with minimum casualties as possible,” the group said.

The Niger Delta militants said the three hostages were released on medical grounds, particularly the American whom they said was “old, feeble and diabetic.”

The release of the two Egyptians, they added, was prompted also by illness which befell them after they were exposed to the “tropical temperaments of trauma that the Niger Delta child had been forced to live in for over 50 years.”

The men, MEND said, were in terrible conditions and needed urgent and adequate medical attention.
“They were terribly ill and in need of adequate medical attention which MEND, out of respect for the basic prerogative of humanity to be afforded the luxury of health care facilities considered expedient and wise to accord nature a leaf of goodwill,” they added.

The group insisted that henceforth, further negotiations would be ratified by its “intelligence council,” adding that, “we shall honour the table of dialogue when and only when an impeachable window of negotiation is proffered.”

MEND said it wants a negotiation platform where the United Nations, the United States and British governments would be involved.

Speaking after his release, Hawkins said: “I have no animosity toward them at all. I’ve seen their little villages. They’re dirt poor, poor as field mice.”
Delta State governor, Chief James Ibori, thanked MEND for releasing the six hostages, while asking that the other three should equally be freed. Also, Chief Edwin Clark, Ijaw leader, thanked those involved in the effort to get the hostages freed.

Meanwhile, Ijaw militant youths Wednesday asked Governor James Ibori of Delta State to explain why he refused to develop Ijaw land with the 13 percent derivation fund meant for oil producing communities.
The warring youths, who spoke through an Ijaw opinion leader, Prince Collins Eselemo, said one of their grievances was the total neglect and marginalization of the Ijaw people. He requested the governor to sign an undertaking to develop their areas as one of the conditions to release the hostages.

Eselemo, who denounced hostage taking as a means of achieving any purpose, declared, “my people are furious over the governor’s attitude of withholding the 13% derivation fund meant for the development of oil producing areas of which Ijaw ethnic nation supposed to be part of the beneficiaries.

“What they are saying in essence is what is due to the Ijaw land in terms of developing the areas with the 13% derivation fund approved and always being provided by President Olusegun Obasanjo unhindered”, said the embittered Ijaw youths.

According to them, the governor should develop Okerenkoko and other Ijaw areas as well as Itsekiris, Isoko, Ndokwa as he developed Oghara when his mother died, stressing, “without positive response, crisis will continue to rock the Niger –Delta region, especially in Delta State.

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