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Page last updated at 20:24 GMT, Monday, 1 June 2009 21:24 UK

Setback for Nigerian UK hostage

Robin Barry Hughes (l) and Matthew John Maguire
Matthew Maguire (r) was seized along with 27 other hostages

Nigerian militants say a British captive whom they were preparing to release will not now be freed.

Matthew Maguire has been held in the southern Nigerian oil swamps for almost nine months.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) had said Mr Maguire would be freed because 1 June was his birthday.

But the group later said the oil worker had refused to leave, out of solidarity with the group.

An e-mail statement from the rebels said: "Matthew Maguire has declined the gift of a release from captivity with an argument that he is now an advocate for change in the region."

Mr Maguire was one of 27 hostages taken from an oil services boat in September - all the other hostages were released.

There has been fierce fighting in recent weeks between Mend and the army.

This has mostly been in Delta State, while it is believed that Mr Maguire is being held in Rivers State.

The rebels have warned the military not to try and attack them in an attempt to rescue Mr Maguire.

British hostage Robin Hughes, taken from the same boat as Mr Maguire, was released in April because he had fallen sick.

Kidnap industry

They were seized by a group of pirates operating in Nigeria's oil coast, who then handed them over to Mend.

Map of Nigeria

The other hostages were released within days. Mend had said they would hold on to the British pair until Mend leader Henry Okah, currently facing the death penalty at a treason trial being held in secret, was released by the government.

Hundreds of foreign oil and construction workers - and many more Nigerians - have been kidnapped by militants since 2006.

Militants who say they are fighting for a better deal from Nigeria's oil revenue, fund their groups with kidnapping, extortion and oil theft.

Corruption and poor governance in the region has allowed militant groups to flourish, activists say.



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