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Nigeria pirates demand $1.3m to release Lebanon, Egypt hostages

Nigerian special forces sail to intercept pirates on 20 March 2019 [PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images]
Nigerian special forces sail to intercept pirates on 20 March 2019 [PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images]

Nigerian pirates who hijacked a cargo ship and kidnapped the crew last week have demanded $1.3 million in exchange for their release, the Nationalreported.

Ten crew members, including three Lebanese and two Egyptians, were on board the Milano 1 cargo ship last Thursday morning when it was hijacked.

Two crew members were freed but eight, including the ship's Lebanese captain, are being held hostage in the Gulf of Guinea.

It was not immediately clear if the hostages are being held at sea or ashore.

The hijackers initially demanded more than $2 million in local currency, according to the National, but have since agreed to settle for the $1.3 million figure.

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.

READ: Nigerian migrant burned to death in Libya

The vessel's Lebanese owner, however, told local outlet Al Watan he had received several calls from the pirates seeking to open negotiations days after the hijacking.

Ahmad Al Kut told the newspaper he had offered to sell the ship to the Lebanese state in order to meet the ransom demand.

Meanwhile, Lebanon's Ambassador to Nigeria, Houssam Diab, was quoted by the National claiming the hijackers 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, to coordinate efforts to end the hostage situation.

Meanwhile, 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.

The hijackers are believed to be members of the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, a group which publicly announced its existence in March 2016.

The organisation's declared aim is to found a state in the Niger delta.

Members have attacked oil-producing facilities in the region, crippling the Nigerian economy, in pursuit of the goal.

Kidnappings for ransom have become increasingly common in the Gulf of Guinea, particularly around Nigeria, where gangs have been dubbed the world's most violent pirates.

READ: Egypt to deport 7 Nigerian anti-police brutality protesters

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AfricaEgyptLebanonMiddle EastNewsNigeria
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