In December, the fighters said Dieghi had blood in his stools and they later said he had other health "issues".

 

Oil assets

   

"There are no discussions ongoing with regard to the release of the remaining two Italians and one Lebanese still in our custody. They are being held indefinitely," the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) said in a statement.   

   

Mend says it is fighting for local control over oil assets in the Niger Delta, where five decades of oil extraction have yielded huge revenues for the Nigerian government and Western oil majors but few benefits for impoverished residents.

   

Poverty fuels militancy and crime in the lawless creeks of the delta, a region almost the size of England. Attacks on the oil industry, abductions of oil workers for ransom or for political motives and smuggling of stolen crude oil are common.

   

"The only alternative to our armed campaign against the oil industry is the restoration of the stolen wealth of the Niger Delta people to its rightful owners," Mend has said.