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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07LAGOS198 2007-03-15 14:46:00 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Lagos
Cable title:  

FIVE EUROPEAN HOSTAGES AND ONE FILIPINO RELEASED;

Tags:   ASEC CASC EPET KDEM NI PGOV PREL 
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1. (SBU) Summary: Two Italian Agip employees held hostage
since December 7 were released March 14; two Croatians and
one Montenegrin working for oil service company Hydrodrive
International were released March 12 after 22 days in
captivity; and a Filipino Shell employee abducted February 6
was released March 9. One French national and three
Nigerians remain hostages. End Summary.



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Two Italians Released After 98 Days Captive


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2. (SBU) The two remaining Italian Agip employees taken
hostage in Bayelsa State on December 7 were released March
14, after 98 days captive, Akin Aruwajoye, Deputy Managing
Director of Agip confirmed to Poloff March 15. According to
media reports, the kidnappers claimed the hostages were to be
kept until President Obasanjo stepped down in May, but that
pleas from "certain quarters" led to the hostages' premature
release. Also, a statement purportedly given by the Movement
for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) claimed more
hostages would be taken from "secure" locations to "dispel
the false sense of security...in the oil industry and foreign
industry watchers."



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Two Croatians, One Montenegrin Released by JTF


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-



3. (SBU) On March 12, two Croatians and one Montenegrin
employed by Hydrodrive International, an offshore oil service
company, kidnapped February 18, were released from captivity.
The hostages were kidnapped from a bar in Port Harcourt the
day after American citizen Bill Graham was released from
captivity. Media reports claim the military Joint Task Force
(JTF) rescued the hostages from the kidnappers' hideout in
Ogbakiri, Emuohua Local Government Area of Rivers State.



4. (C) However, Defense Attache sources do not believe this
signals a change in strategy by the GON. According to these
sources, the military Joint Task Force (JTF) had been engaged
in a crackdown on this particular faction of the Niger Delta
People's Volunteer Force (NDPVF). This faction was believed
to be responsible for the January 23 kidnapping of American
citizen Billy Graham, British national Neil Mirrlees, as well
as the two Croatians and Montenegrin. The State Security
Service (SSS) and JTF reportedly detained 10-15 faction
members over the past few weeks which further weakened this
already small sub-group and basically frightened away members
still at large. Reportedly, there were no militants in the
area when the hostages were recovered.



5. (C) Comment: For now, this episode seems to represent
opportunism more than a conscious change in GON policy.
Compared to other militant activity, this faction of the

LAGOS 00000198 002.2 OF 002


NDPVF represented weak, low lying fruit ripe for the taking,
and with little chance of blowback. However, not all
militant groups will wilt so easily at the first sign of GON
pressure. Nonetheless, this does represent an infrequent
victory for the GON in its battles with the militants. The
operative question now is whether this minor victory will
embolden the JTF to be more aggressive against more
formidable foes or will it remain content with tackling the
weaker groups when the opportunities present themselves. End
Comment.



6. (C) Also on March 12, armed men boarded a boat belonging
to Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) near Bonny, Rivers
State, according to security sources. The men were
reportedly looking for expatriates, and when they discovered
none aboard, they took the passengers' valuables and the
mobile police escorts' weapons. Two police escorts were told
to stand at the bow of the boat and were gunned down by the
militants as they departed on their own boat. Both police
escorts died in the incident.



--------------------------


Filipino Released After 31 Days Captive


--------------------------





7. (C) Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Filipino
employee, Winston Halera, who was kidnapped on his way to the
Owerri airport on February 6, was released March 9, SPDC's
Olav Ljosne told Poloff on March 15. Halera has returned to
the Philippines after receiving medical treatment in Port
Harcourt. Ljosne said Halera was physically unharmed. While
media reports suggest JTF in Rivers State negotiated Halera's
release, Ljosne said this was the work of the State Security
Service.



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One Frenchman, Three Nigerians Remain Hostage


--------------------------





8. (C) According to security sources attending the March 13
Delta Working Group, French Total employee Gerard Laporal,
taken February 7, and three Nigerian nationals remain
hostages. (Ref A)



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"Murdered" Filipina Alive and Well


--------------------------





9. (U) According to security sources, a Filipino woman who
was reportedly kidnapped and killed February 7 while carrying
USD 10,000, may have been involved in embezzlement.
According to Lufthansa's passenger manifests, the woman
departed Nigeria for the Philippines February 10. (Ref B)
BROWNE