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Rescue mission botched

THE Nigerian military botched a rescue mission aimed at liberating two British hostages held captive in Nigeria's restive southern oil region, militants said yesterday.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said the overnight mission caused the militants to separate the British victims and move them deeper into the region's vast network of creeks and mangrove swamps.

They said the hostages weren't in the village where the military launched its attack, which the militants said left some men, women and children dead.

In a separate incident, gunmen attacked vessels near a crude-oil loading installation late on Saturday and one crew member was killed.

A private security official said the gunmen had initially tried to board an oil tanker, but turned to smaller service vessels after they had failed. Some crew members were reported kidnapped, but no details were immediately available, the official said.

The British hostages were among 27 oil workers, including five expatriates, kidnapped by militants when their vessel was hijacked on September 9. The other hostages were later released.

The militants are behind nearly three years of rising violence in the southern Niger Delta, where more than 200 foreign workers have been kidnapped. Hostages are normally released after a ransom is paid.

The militants are pressing for more oil funds to be sent to the southern states.


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