updated 1/22/2006 7:21:51 PM ET 2006-01-23T00:21:51

Militants holding four foreign hostages in Nigeria claimed Sunday they would release the captives soon, according to a statement purportedly from the militant group.

The hostages — an American, a Briton, a Bulgarian and a Honduran — were seized near a Shell oil field on Jan. 11 by a group that also claimed responsibility for other oil industry attacks that have cut Nigerian production by almost 10 percent.

“We promise that they would soon join their families, hale and hearty enough to tell the true story of a revolution,” the statement e-mailed to The Associated Press said.

Earlier Sunday, the captors had threatened via e-mail to keep the hostages for years.

The identity of the e-mail’s authors could not be independently confirmed and no name was attached to it. But the statement came from an e-mail address known to be used by the Movement for the Emancipation of the People of the Niger Delta, which has claimed responsibility for a series of recent attacks on the country’s oil industry.

On Saturday, the group’s leader told the AP by telephone that the American hostage, Patrick Landry, was sick and warned that if he dies, his group would kill the remaining hostages.

Landry’s son, Dwight, said Sunday he had not heard of any new developments, but said he had seen a recent picture of his father and the other hostages and believed they were all still alive.

Landry said he was encouraged by the group’s apparent pledge to release his father.

“I certainly hope that’s the case,” he said.

More attacks threatened
The militants are demanding the release of two imprisoned figureheads of their ethnic Ijaw group and have threatened more attacks on oil facilities. They claim to be fighting for a greater local share of oil wealth they believe is being unfairly snapped up by foreign companies and the federal government.

The kidnapped workers are employed by two companies contracted by Shell in the delta: Britain’s Ecodrill and Tidewater of Louisiana.

The crisis, along with concern over the Iranian nuclear dispute and new threats of attacks on the United States by al-Qaida, has helped push world oil prices up.

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