MEND Are Keeping Kidnapped Americans

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A Nigerian militant group said it?s in contact with the captors of two U.S. citizens abducted off the coast of the West African nation and is working to ensure they are well treated before being freed. 

The unidentified Americans were seized from a vessel called the C-Retriever in the Gulf of Guinea on Thursday in an act of piracy, the State Department said.

The kidnappings were carried out by a ?heavily armed auxiliary outfit? that made contact with a commander of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the group said in an e-mailed statement. 

?The Americans will not be handed over for our direct custody, but we will have the influence to visit them and ensure that they are well looked after before their subsequent release,? Jomo Gbomo, the spokesman of the movement that?s known as MEND, said in the statement. 

West African piracy overtook Somali attacks as the greatest threat to crews of merchant ships for the first time in 2012, according to organizations including the International Maritime Bureau.

Before the latest incident, seven vessels were hijacked this year in the Gulf of Guinea and 132 crew taken hostage, according to October 17 data from the London-based agency that tracks crime at sea.

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