Nigerian militants who kidnapped four Western oil workers claimed that one of the hostages is gravely ill, and they threatened to kill the rest should he die.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has carried out a month-long campaign of violence in the volatile region and it says group members were responsible for the murder of at least 17 people at one of oil company Royal Dutch Shell's site this week.
The militants spoke to a Reuters reporter yesterday and said they would not accept a ransom for the Briton, a Bulgarian, a Honduran and an American. All four complained of diarrhoea and fatigue from being constantly moved around.
They were kidnapped during a raid at Shell's EA offshore platform on the 11 January. The group wants local control of oil wealth and is demanding that the government release two of its leaders, one of whom is a former state governor.
Earlier in the day, the militants offered to free the American hostage, Patrick Landry, who suffers from high blood pressure, if the managing director of his company, a US-based oil service firm, took his place.
In later communications, the group changed tack. Referring to Mr Landry, one militant said: "One of them is sick, badly sick and could give up tonight. If one of them dies, we kill them all."
Mr Landry told a reporter: "We are in bad shape here ... Meet these people's demands. We are not military: we came here to work."
Shell advised its oil workers to leave the region following the raid.Reuse content