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The New York Times: Four Foreigners Kidnapped From Oil Ship Off Nigeria

EXTRACT: A series of attacks by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in February forced Royal Dutch Shell to evacuate hundreds of staff from the western delta, reducing output by about 500,000 barrels a day.

THE ARTICLE
               
LAGOS (Reuters) – Two Norwegians and two Ukrainians were kidnapped at gunpoint from an oil services ship off the coast of Nigeria on Wednesday, the latest in a series of abductions in Africa’s top oil producer, authorities said.

In a separate hostage crisis in another part of the oil producing Niger Delta, militants issued a photograph of their German captive and a statement purportedly written by him in which he said he was being well treated but wanted to go home.

The wave of kidnappings coincides with an upsurge in militant attacks against the oil industry which has cut oil production by 25 percent in the world’s eighth largest exporter since February.

“Four foreigners were kidnapped, two Norwegians and two Ukrainians,” said Hafiz Ringim, police commissioner for Bayelsa state, where Wednesday’s attack happened.

“Armed men believed to be disgruntled members of the community attacked them and took them away. Right now, we have not been able to make contact with the hostages, but we are working on that.”

The four work on a vessel owned by a Norwegian unit of U.S.-based Trico Marine Services Inc., which services an offshore drilling rig.

Eight foreigners were kidnapped from the same rig for two days in June in a dispute with a nearby community over jobs and investment.

Kidnappings of foreign workers are frequent in the mangrove creeks and swamps of the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria, which is home to all of the OPEC member nation’s oil and gas.

SIGNS OF LIFE

In two separate incidents last week, the German and three Filipinos were kidnapped in another part of the delta.

The group holding the German sent an email to the media on Wednesday containing a photograph and a statement purportedly written by the captive, Guido Schiffarth of Wurzburg, Bavaria.

“So far I have been treated well by my captors. They have provided me with mosquito nets. They have also provided me with medicines and even brought me a packet of my favorite cigarette, Benson & Hedges. I am alive and well, but I want to go home,” Schiffarth said.

The militants have demanded the release from jail of two ethnic Ijaw leaders and more jobs and investment by his employer, German construction company Bilfinger and Berger, in the delta community where it is based.

Militancy is fueled by widespread feelings of injustice in the vast wetlands region where most people live in poverty despite the wealth being pumped from their ancestral lands.

A series of attacks by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in February forced Royal Dutch Shell to evacuate hundreds of staff from the western delta, reducing output by about 500,000 barrels a day.

MEND is fighting for more local control over the delta’s oil resources, compensation for pollution and the release of two jailed leaders from the region.

Criminal gangs involved in the large-scale theft of crude oil from pipelines have also been involved in kidnappings, and it is often difficult to distinguish between the two.

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