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Britain urges Nigerian militants to free hostage

“We call for Mathew Maguire’s immediate and unconditional release on humanitarian grounds. He has been held captive for nine months and the situation is causing…

“We call for Mathew Maguire’s immediate and unconditional release on humanitarian grounds. He has been held captive for nine months and the situation is causing great distress to him and his family,” Bob Dewar, British High Commissioner to Nigeria said.

Maguire is being held by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). The group said Monday it planned to release Maguire later that same day.

“We are disappointed that a MEND statement earlier this week suggesting that Mathew Maguire would be released on his birthday came to nothing. This is a considerable blow to his family who want him home safe and well,” he said.

Maguire and his compatriot, Robin Barry Hughes, were kidnapped in oil city Port Harcourt last September 9. The latter was released on April 19 on health grounds, the diplomat said.

MEND claimed Maguire had refused the offer of freedom.

It said that it would convey London’s message to Maguire.

“The message of the British High Commission will be conveyed to Mathew Maguire,” MEND said in a statement to AFP.

“His release is entirely in his own hands,” the statement said.

The military unit deployed to the region, the Joint Task Force (JTF) Friday restated its determination to “search for criminals and uproot” them in Niger Delta.

“We promise once again that our resolve to search for criminals and uproot them … will persist,” JTF said in a statement, and added that it found and destroyed on Thursday MEND’s two training camps.

The delta unrest has reduced Nigeria’s daily output to 1.76 million barrels compared with 2.6 million barrels in January 2006.

BBC