Nigeria: On the trail of abducted French crew

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Four crew members aboard the Bourbon Alexandre (three French and one Thai), a French vessel, were abducted off the coast of Nigeria. Yesterday, in a statement, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) claimed to have located the hostages and were negotiating with their captors for a transfer of the men to their custody. Paris wants to track the kidnappers.

Yet another hostage situation. MEND militants in Nigeria yesterday announced that they were aware of the whereabouts of three French men and one Thai abducted in the night of 21 to 22 September off the coast of Nigeria.

“We are in negotiations with the abductors towards effecting a transfer of the men to the custody of Mend,” said the MEND without elaborating on the identity of the kidnappers.

The attack on the vessel from the Bourbon Oil Company, a French company, occurred in the Addax field off the Nigerian coast after eight or seven men on fast boats stormed the Bourbon Alexandre. There were 16 men on board, out of whom three French officers were taken hostage.

Although the boat was looted, “no one was hurt”, according to the company. In Lagos, the spokesman for the Nigerian Navy, David Nabaida said that a Thai man was among those abducted.

And whilst another information has been kept under wraps, it is believed that another barge, in close proximity to the site of the incident involving the French vessel, was also attacked. Nigerian and Filipino hostages were taken.

Guilf of Guinea

The French Minister of Defense Herve Morin has stated that the act was presumably a “conventional act of piracy” whilst arguing that there had been “almost a hundred cases in 2009 in the Gulf of Guinea.”

Indeed, this is not the first time the Bourbon Group is dealing with a kidnapping case in Nigeria.

In August 2008, two French nationals were kidnapped near Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s oil capital. They were released in early September.

Late October 2008, another group of ten hostages, including seven French men, were captured on a Bourbon ship off the Bakassi Peninsula (Cameroon). They were also released shortly after.

According to the International Maritime Bureau, the Gulf of Guinea has become the most most dangerous waters after the Gulf of Aden.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which calls for a better redistribution of the wealth generated from the Niger Delta’s oil resources, has in the past been behind the abduction of several oil workers and attacks on oil installations.

But after its emergence in the region in 2006, the movement has split in recent months following a peace process initiated by the late Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua. While some of the group’s militants have laid down their arms, others have vowed to continue fighting.

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