Filipino Tanker Captain, Engineer Among Held Hostage in African Waters

An oil tanker with crew from Russia, Georgia and the Philippines is reportedly hijacked in Nigerian waters, a shipping security expert at Denmark-based Risk Intelligence said on Thursday.

MT Leon Dias, a Greek-owned tanker was boarded last week by separatists calling for an independent state of Biafra in Nigeria’s southeast. The group reportedly held the ships crew under kidnap for ransom. The hijackers abandoned the ship on Sunday and took five hostages including the Filipino captain and third engineer, a Russian chief engineer and Georgian fitter.

A man identified with the group, calling himself General Ben, threatened to blow up the ship along with its crew if authorities did not release Nnamdi Kanu, director of the banned Radio Biafra detained since October 17 under charges of terrorism.

Nigerian Navy said on Wednesday that the tanker is now off the cost of Cotonou the capital of neighboring country of Benin.

Nigerian government issued no comment so far on the hijacking, which comes amid renewed attacks on oil and gas installations in the southern Niger Delta believed carried out by militants demanding a bigger share of revenue for southern states polluted by petroleum production.

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