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Rebels in Nigeria Talking With U.S. Sailors' Kidnappers

Nigerian navy special forces patrol the waters during a joint military exercise between Nigerian armed forces, United States, Britain, Netherlands and Spain in Lagos in October 18, 2013 (AFP/File, Pius Utomi Ekpei)
Nigerian navy special forces patrol the waters during a joint military exercise between Nigerian armed forces, United States, Britain, Netherlands and Spain in Lagos in October 18, 2013 (AFP/File, Pius Utomi Ekpei)
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Updated: 10/25/2013 9:17 am

(CBS News) Rebel forces in Nigeria say they were talking Friday morning with the pirates whokidnapped two American sailors off the coast of West Africa.

The rebels said they can ensure the hostages' safety.

CBS News' Margaret Brennan reports from the State Department that the militant group - the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta - says it's in contact with the pirates who kidnapped the two Americans offshore of Brass, Nigeria.


The FBI and the State Department are coordinating the emergency response through the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria.

The two Americans were working on a U.S.-flagged commercial oil supply ship off the coast of Nigeria when pirates attacked and kidnapped them before releasing the 11 other crew members.

It is not clear where they took the hostages - one the ship's captain, the other an engineer.

The FBI is investigating.

"We are seeking additional information so that we can contribute to the safe resolution of the situation," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Thursday. "Our principal concern now is the safe return of two American citizens."

Pirate attacks on the west coast of Africa have surged by a third this year, in part because it is an oil-rich region where ships move slowly and carry valuable cargo.

Unfortunately for the two hostages, foreign navies do not patrol the dangerous waters off Nigeria.

That type of international coordination off East Africa has led to a significant drop in piracy.

Attacks by Somali pirates are down 80 percent over the past two years, according to U.S. Navy estimates.

Ships now speed through the area with armed private security guards to dodge hijackers.

Robert McFadden oversaw counterintelligence for the U.S. Navy.

"These are straight criminal enterprises where it's all about the money," said McFadden. "It's not a political statement. It doesn't have anything to do with terrorism; it's about the money."

The Nigerian navy said it's taking action, but the Pentagon has not been asked for help. There is no U.S.-led rescue operation under way, and the closest Marine response unit is in Spain. Frankly, at this point, the best chance at rescue may be for the hostages' employers to pay ransom.

Watch Margaret Brennan's report from the State Department in the player above

© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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