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Houston Chronicle: 3 hostages taken from Shell oil complex

By WILLIAM NSOYOH Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press
Dec. 15, 2006, 6:16AM

YENAGOA, Nigeria — Armed men who seized control of a Royal Dutch Shell PLC oil complex overnight fled Friday, taking three Nigerian hostages, shooting a man and forcing the oil giant to halt production at the site.

The attackers kidnapped a soldier, an administrative officer and a chef who works at a base that houses staff and stores equipment in Oporoma in the southern state of Bayelsa, said Joshua Benemesia, a traditional chief who has mediated hostage negotiations in the oil-rich delta region.

At least one man was shot in the attack, Benemesia said. Neither his identity nor his condition were immediately known.

Benemesia said he had not seen the assault himself, but had talked to members of his group at the scene. He said there were around 14 attackers.

Shell officials earlier confirmed the station was occupied. Spokesman Bisi Ojediran said it had been shut down as a precaution, cutting production by 12,000 barrels of oil per day. Attacks on pipelines and oil facilities have cut the West African country’s usual daily output of 2.5 million barrels by about a quarter this year.

Nigeria is the fifth-largest supplier of oil to the U.S., and attacks in the Niger river delta have often moved world oil markets.

This latest incident came as OPEC wrapped up a meeting in Nigeria’s distant capital, Abuja. On Thursday, the group said it planned to cut output in early 2007 to push oil prices above $62 a barrel.

Associated Press writer Katharine Houreld in Lagos contributed to this report.

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