LAGOS -- A coalition of militia groups in the Niger Delta said Monday it had initiated a process aimed at securing the release of an employee of Nigeria Agip Oil Co., the local Niger Delta People"s Volunteer Force, The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta and The Martyrs Brigade - was involved in the kidnap of the Agip human resources manager.

"In the interim, the JRC has begun a process to identify and ensure the quick release of this hostage," JRC said in a statement signed by Cynthia Whyte, a name believed to be a pseudonym for one of the leaders of the group.

Scores of mostly foreign oil workers have been kidnapped by armed men from the Niger Delta, who say they want more regional control of the oil and gas resources.

Hostages are normally released unharmed, usually after the payment of ransoms allegedly demanded by the captors.

Attacks by the militia groups on oil facilities have cut nearly 1 million barrels a day of crude oil production from Nigeria.

One of the groups mentioned by the JRC, MEND, told Dow Jones Newswires Sunday it would soon resume its attacks on oil pipelines, with the aim of further reducing Nigeria"s crude oil exports.

However, the spokesman for MEND dissociated the group from JRC.

"We do not know who these JRC people are, and do not have any alliance with them if they indeed exist," MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo said in an e-mail response to Dow Jones Newswires.

Gbomo, whose name is believed to be a pseudonym for an influential member of MEND, is known to give accurate accounts of planned attacks by the group, and always follows up with a report detailing the execution of the plans.

 

PIN/MARKETWATCH.COM

News Code 105181

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