Nigeria's military sent helicopter gunships and boats Friday to attack a militant camp deep in the swamps of the southern oil region after the area's fighters hijacked a ship and seized 15 Filipinos. There were conflicting reports on casualties.
The militants said one of the hostages had been hit by a stray bullet and killed, but refused to give any further details. Their claim was impossible to independently verify.
Military spokesman Col. Rabe Abubakar said troops in Delta State were searching for the hostages kidnapped Thursday by followers of a notorious regional militant leader known as Government Tompolo.
Witnesses, private security personnel and ethnic leaders said the military employed more than a dozen gunboats and several helicopters in the attack on Tompolo's camp.
Edwin Clark, a leader of the ethnic Ijaw people who live in the area surrounding the militant camp, said townspeople had fled into the bush as the military fired weapons from the air, water and land.
"The military has declared total war on our people," he said.