Sailors held captive in wages mutiny

Abuja, Nigeria (AP) - Nigerian crewmen have seized a cargo ship off the west African coast and were last night holding captive 28 other sailors in a mutiny over wages, maritime and government officials said.

The revolt was first reported by the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila, which said it began on 23 December.

The Philippines consul-general in Nigeria, Hermes Dorado, said about 60 Nigerian crew were holding 10 Filipinos, nine French, five Indians, two Britons, one Lebanese, and one sailor from Nepal. He identified the vessel as the WB-82, a French-owned ship which he said was used to transport crude oil from platforms to tankers.

"This is purely a labour dispute," Mr Dorado said.

It was not clear how much the Nigerians were earning, but Mr Dorado said they had demanded that their pay be increased to at least 500,000 naira (pounds 3,700) per month. Negotiations were being held to reach a "more reasonable" settlement. Mr Dorado said that the captives were safe and unharmed.

The Philippines embassy in Nigeria said the ship was about 30 miles off the Nigerian town of Eket in Akwa-Ibom state. Filipino crew members who managed to send faxed messages about the ordeal to their government said the ship was seized shortly after leaving an oil platform.

The crew said they were not harmed.