French admiral sees happy end to Nigerian kidnap

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France's top military officer said Friday that the kidnapping of three French oil workers in waters off Nigeria was a simple act of piracy and that he expected the hostages to be released unharmed.

Three French sailors were kidnapped on Wednesday by gunmen who stormed a French-flagged oil field supply tug, the 2,000-tonne Bourbon Alexandre, off the Niger Delta, home to Nigeria's multi-billion-dollar oil industry.

"It's really a piracy I'd term a tribalo-mafiosi piracy," said Admiral Edouard Guillaud, in an interview with Europe 1 radio. "Up until now, without exception, whichever country has been affected, these things have ended well.

"There are regular attacks on ships supplying offshore oil platforms, not only French ones, by some tribes who think that the oil wealth is not shared fairly and want money," he said.

"As is always the case with piracy, the solution is on land. If these countries were able to develop economically, people wouldn't need to do this kind of thing," he said.

The admiral appeared to suggest France might negotiate a ransom, but he did not say so explicitly and he noted President Nicolas Sarkozy had warned last month that paying up was not a long term strategy to deal with kidnapping.

© 2010 AFP

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