Militant Group Takes a Summer Break

Jun 13, 2007 12:17pm

The Nigerian militant group MEND, or Movement to Emancipate the Niger Delta, responsible for holding American and foreign oil workers hostage and setting off bombs in the Niger Delta region, is taking a summer break, according to its leader, who operates under the pseudonym of "Jomo." In an e-mail to the Blotter on ABCNews.com, Jomo states that MEND "lost faith in the ability of the previous government to achieve any good in the delta and offered this month-long lull to give the new government the opportunity to think up something different from schools and clinics offered by the obasanjo ( former Nigerian President) regime," he wrote. "In this one month period, we expect positive signs indicating a government, willing to dialogue on all the demands of the niger delta people." Jack Cloonan, a former FBI agent and now an ABC News consultant and hostage negotiator, has dealt with MEND and other militant groups in the Niger Delta. He says that while MEND’s pledge to halt attacks may be sincere, it doesn’t mean much if other splinter groups continue to take hostages. "MEND can’t control everything," says Cloonan. "MEND has influenced spin-off groups, criminal gangs, and these are the people who are more problematic. The spin-offs are still going to be kidnapping people," he says. Two weeks ago, Cloonan negotiated to free four Americans kidnapped by one of those splinter groups calling itself Egbema One. Three more Americans were freed from a different group two days ago. Demands from all these groups range from money and liquor to political changes in local government and the way oil revenue is distributed. Cloonan says all of these groups sprouting up make the situation in the Niger Delta more dangerous for foreigners and more difficult negotiators. "We would prefer to deal with someone in Mexico or Colombia any day of the week than in Nigeria," he says. "In traditional kidnappings, we know we have power — we have money. In cases of the Niger Delta, we don’t always know if money is the end game." Jomo states in his e-mail to ABCNews.com the new government has until July 3 to respond to MEND’s demands. "We expect the government to accept our demand for international mediation," he states. "If at the end of the one month period we see none of these telltale signs, we will have no option but to resume with our attacks." Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

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