Nigerian militants release six hostages, honoring cease-fire

The rebel group MEND agreed last week to a 60-day truce, during which it will stop sabataging oil infrastructure and fighting government troops in the Niger Delta region.

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A daily summary of global reports on security issues.

Nigerian militants released six abducted oil workers Wednesday, making good on its promise of goodwill gestures during a 60-day cease-fire it announced last week. But the group on Tuesday warned it would break that cease-fire to renew attacks on damaged oil pipelines if the government tries to repair them.

The group MEND (the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) is sabotaging oil infrastructure and fighting government troops in the creeks of the oil-rich Niger Delta, waging an insurgency that threatens key global oil supplies. It says the poor region (see a map here) has not reaped sufficient benefits from the lucrative oil extraction business.

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The Norwegian company EMS Ship Management confirmed Wednesday that six of its employees abducted 18 days ago from a chemical/oil tanker have been released, Reuters reports.

The BBC reports that MEND said in a statement that the release of the six – three Russians, two Filipinos and an Indian – was "part of a 60-day ceasefire announced last week."

This Day, an African news portal, said that the militants warned in the same statement that the government should not attempt to repair pipelines damaged in two rebel offensives. (MEND dubs such offensives "hurricanes.")

The Financial Times reported Monday that the Nigerian government is offering the insurgents cash incentives, including a monthly stipend of$130 per militant, to accept an amnesty. The reason, according to a "security source" cited by the newspaper: Nigeria's oil-dependent economy has been battered by the fighting in the Delta and sagging oil prices.

MEND emerged as the main militant group in the Niger Delta in 2006, according to a background report by the Council on Foreign Relations. But that report says it's a loosely knit group, with some elements acting mainly on criminal rather than political motives. Additionally, some Delta residents reject the group's violent tactics, and say the group should not speak for them.

For example, a group called the Ilaje Renaissance condemned a July 13 MEND attack on a facility in Lagos in harsh terms, according to the Nigerian Tribune. That attack, a rare strike outside the Delta region, killed five.

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