Nigerian rebels lose trace of French kidnap victims

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Nigeria's most prominent militant group said Friday it had lost contact with the kidnappers of three French oil workers and one Thai national seized this week off the coast of the West African nation.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said Wednesday it had "located" four kidnap victims, adding it was negotiating with the captors.

But on Friday, it told AFP in a statement: "We have lost contact with the abductors of the three French nationals and one Thai."

MEND, which has claimed its own attacks in the past and has also been seen as an umbrella group for local gangs in the oil-producing Niger Delta, said the captives "have also been relocated to an unknown destination."

French foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal on Thursday said the government had not been able to confirm the whereabouts of the victims.

The French sailors' employer, maritime services firm Bourbon, has said they were abducted when pirates equipped with several speedboats attacked their 2,000-tonne tug and supply ship.

French and Nigerian officials have said the kidnapping appeared purely criminal with no political motive.

© 2010 AFP

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