Nigerian military said on Tuesday that rebels have captured a merchant vessel and threatened to blow it up with its foreign crew on board if authorities do not free a detained leader agitating for a breakaway state of Biafra.
Defence Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Rabe Abubakar, told reporters that the hijacking happened on Friday and called it "an act of sabotage,” but did not mention the name of the vessel.
Another officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Associated Press that the navy is conducting an operation to rescue the vessel. The hijackers have given the government 31 days to free Kanu or say they will blow up the vessel along with its crew.
The ultimatum from the rebels was given at the weekend by "General Ben."
"Some Niger Delta militants have shown interest in working with us," said Uchena Madu, a leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of a Sovereign State of Biafra.
The latest incident indicates that rebels could be working with some Niger Delta oil militants who were blamed for recent bombings of oil pipelines in southern Nigeria, escalating conflict in a country already threatened by Boko Haram’s attack in the northeast.
Last year on Oct. 17, Nigerian secret police detained Nnamdi Kanu, director of banned Radio Biafra, who was accused of terrorism and igniting a deadly protest where police clashed with demonstrators.
In the 1960s, Nigeria’s Igbo people ignited a civil war to establish a separate state of Biafra in the southeast that killed a million people and failed.