LAGOS (AFP) – The militant group MEND which last week claimed the killing of four marine policemen in the the oil-rich Niger Delta said Sunday it was at “war” with the nation’s security agents.

“We are at war with all arms of the Nigerian security services and as such, members of the Nigeria police will be attacked as the opportunity presents itself,” it said in an email statement.

It did not give further details.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) earlier said that Thursday’s attack on a marine police checkpoint in the southern Bayelsa state in which four policemen were killed “was carried out by our fighters”.

Also the group said it would not mediate the release of three sailors abducted last week when their cargo ship was attacked by pirates off the Nigerian coast.

Pirates shot their way onto a Dutch-owned cargo vessel February 1 and kidnapped three hostages including the captain and its chief engineer, both Russians, and a Filipino crew member, according to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.

The armed group said Friday the kidnappers had offered to hand over the hostages, who were claimed to be in good health.

But in an email on Sunday, the group said it would not mediate in the kidnapping and was unwilling to accept the prisoners.

“We were reluctant to accept the hostages,” the group said. “That vessel is unconnected with our struggle.”

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta says it has been fighting for a fairer distribution of Nigerian oil revenue.

The kidnapping was one of a series of incidents indicating heightened piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Recent pirate attacks have targeted vessels carrying petroleum products. Pirates hijack and direct tankers to other ships, where the fuel is siphoned out and then taken for sale on the black market.

The International Maritime Bureau has warned ships to steer clear of the Gulf of Guinea, an emerging hotspot for piracy.

Since January 1, the bureau has recorded eight attacks in Nigeria’s waters and one off the coast of its neighbour Benin.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, and Benin last year launched joint sea patrols with the backing of France.

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