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Reuters Foundation: German oil worker kidnapped in Nigeria

03 Aug 2006 16:49:15 GMT
Source: Reuters

By Austin Ekeinde

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria, Aug 3 (Reuters) – A German oil contractor was kidnapped in the southern Nigerian oil city of Port Harcourt on Thursday by armed men dressed in military fatigues, police said.

It was the latest in a series of kidnappings and attacks against the oil industry in the world’s eighth largest exporter, where militants are fighting an increasingly bloody campaign for more control over the region’s oil wealth.

“Armed youths wearing army camouflage this morning at 7:00 a.m. kidnapped a German national,” a police spokesman said.

The employee of Bilfinger and Berger was abducted from his car after it was flagged down on a major highway, and driven to a jetty where he was bundled into a speedboat.

Western multinationals have reduced oil output by about 700,000 barrels a day, about one quarter of the country’s capacity, mostly due to a wave of attacks by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in February.

It was unclear whether Thursday’s abduction was by MEND, a loose coalition of militia from the delta region, or one of a number of other armed gangs operating in the lawless swamps which are home to Africa’s largest oil industry.

Criminal groups, sometimes involved in large-scale theft of crude oil from pipelines, also regularly attack oil installations and workers to extort money or concessions from companies.

Hostages are usually released unharmed after a few hours or days after the payment of a ransom, which analysts say fuels the cycle of violence.

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