Nigerians Kidnap Foreign Oil Workers, Demand Basic Services
The militants, who claim to be fighting for a greater local share of the country's oil wealth for their impoverished region, seized Hawkins and eight other foreign oil workers from a barge in the Niger Delta's mangrove swamps Feb. 18.
The 15-minute encounter Friday took place in the middle of the river with the militants in five boats and journalists in two.
Hawkins seemed upbeat despite being surrounded by gunmen standing over him with Kalashnikov automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and tripod-mounted machine guns.
He repeated militant demands that neutral third parties like the United Nations or President Bush get involved in negotiating the release of the hostages, who also include two other Americans, two Egyptians, two Thais, one Briton and one Filipino.
"Tell President Bush we want to get this thing settled," he added, before the militants steered their boat around and headed back into the mangrove swamps, firing their AK-47s skyward for show.
"These people have no schools, no hospitals," said Hawkins. "They're very poor, it's time to do something."