Richard Ginika Izuora
The kidnappers who allegedly attacked a cargo ship and abducted the crew last week have demanded $1.3 million as ransom to effect their release.
The hijackers are suspected to be members of the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers; a group which publicly announced its existence in March 2016.
Members of the group have previously attacked oil-producing facilities in the region in pursuit of its goal.
Among the crew members held hostage by the kidnappers are three Lebanese and two Egyptians. The sailors were on board the Milano 1 cargo ship last Thursday morning when it was hijacked.
The Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday disclosed that the commercial ship went missing somewhere between Nigeria and Cameroon.
The Ministry also revealed that the pirates had released the ship and two sailors; adding that three Lebanese and five people of other nationalities are still among the hostages.
The hostages, including the ship’s Lebanese captain, are being held hostage in the Gulf of Guinea. However, it was not immediately clear if the hostages are being held at sea or ashore.
The kidnappers initially demanded more than $2 million in local currency; the Middle East Monitor quoting the National had reported. However, they have since agreed to settle for the $1.3 million figure. Further, the medium says direct negotiations to determine the ransom sum took place between the businessman; who had hired the ship and the hostage takers.
The ship, which is registered in the Caribbean island state of St Kitts, is operated by a Lebanese firm. However, at the time of the hijacking; the Milano 1 was being used by a Nigerian company to transport glass from Nigeria to Cameroon.
Meanwhile, the vessel’s Lebanese owner told local newsmen he had received several calls from the pirates; seeking to open negotiations days after the hijacking. Ahmad Al Kut said he had offered to sell the ship to the Lebanese government; noting that this was in order to meet the ransom demand.
Lebanon’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Houssam Diab, has revealed that the pirates had no intention to kill their hostages and only wanted to receive a ransom payment.
“This is not a kidnapping with the intention to kill, it was with the intention of getting a ransom,” Diab said.
Diab is reportedly communicating with the Lebanese Consul in Cameroon as well as their counterparts in Nigeria to coordinate efforts to end the hostage situation.
Also, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry yesterday said it had ordered its diplomatic mission in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to coordinate with local authorities to facilitate the crew’s release.