Nigerian troops arrest top hostage taker in Niger Delta   2010-11-20 18:08:35 FeedbackPrintRSS

LAGOS, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- Nigerian troops operating in the oil- rich Niger Delta region has arrested a notorious militant leader suspected to be responsible for recent kidnapping and attacks in the region, the military says.

Regional military spokesperson Timothy Antigha made the disclosure to Xinhua on phone on Saturday from his base in the city of Port Harcourt, saying the militant gang leader was arrested with more than 50 of his followers.

"We have arrested the notorious Obese and his followers," he said, noting that Obese was responsible for the attacks on Exxon Mobil and Afren facilities.

He said the troops recovered several arms and ammunitions from the den of the militant leader, adding that they would be presented to the press by 1 p. m. local time on Saturday.

Nigerian troops on Wednesday rescued 19 people kidnapped by militants at different locations in the Niger Delta region.

The victims were freed by a combined team of Joint Task Force (JTF) and Marine Police at different militant camps in the creeks around new Calabar River.

The team achieved the feat through sea and air raids.

Four Nigerians working with Shell, eight Nigerian Mobil Oil workers and two Americans were among those rescued.

Others include two French, two Indonesians and one Canadian.

The troops said the operation is a continuous exercise, adding that the police and other security agencies would continue to maintain peace in the area.

The region's main militant group MEND claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) Ibeno oil facility and the London-based oil exploration firm Afren offshore oil rig.

The group has warned that it will launch a major operation that will simultaneously affect oil facilities across the Niger Delta in the coming weeks.

In a statement to reporters on Friday, MEND said their fighters had been instructed to carry out more raids on oil installations from where fresh hostages would be taken.

The group is known for a series of attacks on international oil companies in the Niger Delta, engaging in actions including sabotage, theft, property destruction, guerilla warfare and kidnapping.

The Niger Delta is an unstable area where inter-ethnic clashes are commonplace. Access to oil revenue is the trigger for the violence.

Over 300 foreigners have been seized in the Niger Delta since 2006. Almost all have been released unharmed after paying a ransom.

Editor: Tang Danlu
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