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Cameroon Hostages in Good Health

The West African rebels who kidnapped the men has said the hostages are in good health

Ten oil workers taken hostage off Cameroon's coast are "in good health", the leader of the West African rebels who kidnapped the men said

"The hostages are in good health. They are being looked after and remain safe," said Ebi Dari, the chief of the Bakassi Freedom Fighters, over the phone, while adding the group had had no contact with Cameroon's government.

"They (the government) know what we want. We sent our demands three months ago and have received no response. We want to meet them. That's why we took hostages," he said.

On Saturday, Dari told AFP the rebel group had "changed its mind" about plans to kill the workers, saying they would keep them hostage "for a very long time."

The Bakassi Freedom Fighters, opposed to Cameroon's takeover of the Bakassi Peninsula from Nigeria, had threatened on Friday to kill the hostages "one by one" unless the government agreed to reopen talks on the oil-rich territory's status.

They seized the 10 oil workers -- six French, one Franco-Senegalese, two Cameroonians and one Tunisian - in a pre-dawn pirate attack Friday on an industry support vessel working off the coast of Cameroon.

"We have not done this for money," said Dari. "People in Bakassi are suffering."

Neighbouring Nigeria ceded Bakassi to Cameroon in August after a ruling by the International Court of Justice brought to an end a 15-year dispute over the peninsula, including rights to its oil fields and fishing grounds.

The handover was completed peacefully, but some local groups opposed the change of sovereignty and threatened attacks.

The Bakassi Freedom Fighters, part of a shadowy group dubbed the Niger Delta Defence and Security Council, claimed responsibility in June and July for attacks that killed seven Cameroonian troops and a local official.