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THE WALL STREET TIMES: Nigerian Kidnappers Release Eight Foreign Oil Workers

Associated Press
June 4, 2006 2:02 a.m.

ABUJA, Nigeria — Kidnappers in Nigeria on Sunday released eight foreign oil workers who had been taken hostage early Friday, a police spokesman said.

Spokesman Haz Iwendi said the eight, all reported in good health, were released after successful negotiations brokered by the local state government, police and state security agencies. They included six Britons, one American and a Canadian who were kidnapped Friday off a rig that was drilling off Nigeria’s southern coast. The oil rig was operated by Aberdeen, Scotland-based Dolphin Drilling Ltd., a subsidiary of Norway’s Fred. Olsen Energy, for the Nigerian oil company Peak Petroleum.

“The hostages were released in the early hours of this morning,” Mr. Iwendi said. “They are on their way to Abuja.” Police had said Saturday they were negotiating with the kidnappers and were hoping to make a breakthrough. Mr. Iwendi declined to say whether a ransom was paid and did not say who was responsible for the hostage-taking.

The Movement for the Emancipation for the Niger Delta, the main militant group responsible for a wave of attacks and hostage takings this year in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta, has said it was not responsible for the kidnappings.

Pipeline sabotage, smuggling and militant attacks against oil installations have become commonplace onshore and in the swamps of the country’s oil-rich Niger Delta. But many oil-company executives have said they believe their installations offshore — miles from the restive coast — were more insulated from attack.

Foreign oil companies have poured billions of dollars into facilities along Nigeria’s coast and elsewhere along the West African coast in the Gulf of Guinea. Recent offshore production has helped Nigeria lift total output capacity to some 2.5 million barrels a day, making it one of the world’s biggest producers. But U.S. military officials have expressed concern that offshore platforms in the region are becoming increasingly vulnerable to piracy or terrorist attack.

Earlier this year, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta attacked a Royal Dutch Shell PLC field about nine miles offshore, kidnapping four foreign workers. The workers were eventually released unharmed, but Shell shut down production at the field.

–Chip Cummins contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2006 Associated Press

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