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Reuters: Dutch oil worker killed in Nigeria – industry source

Wed Jan 17, 2007 8:27 AM GMT
By Austin Ekeinde

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria (Reuters) – A Dutch oil worker and a Nigerian serviceman were killed on Tuesday when armed men attacked a small ferry near a huge Nigerian oil and gas export complex, industry sources said.

The two were on a boat operated by South Korean industrial conglomerate Hyundai on their way to the Bonny Island export terminal when the gunmen struck, the latest attack in rising violence in Africa’s top oil producer.

“Militants attacked a Hyundai company boat in transit from Port Harcourt to Bonny Island. One navy rating and one Dutch expat were killed,” one source said, asking not to be named.

A spokesman at the Dutch foreign ministry said: “We are aware of an incident and there was some Dutch involvement, but cannot confirm whether there were any Dutch casualties.” “We are looking into the matter,” he added.

There were conflicting reports of the number of deaths. Two industry sources put the number of dead at four, while another said two were killed and four injured in the attack.

One said four people were being treated for gunshot wounds at an oil industry clinic in Bonny Island, a complex which exports 400,000 barrels a day of oil and about 20 million tonnes per year of liquefied natural gas.

A local police spokesman said he was not aware of the incident. A military spokesman declined to comment.

COMMUNAL CONFLICT

The attack was apparently unrelated to a communal conflict at a nearby community in Rivers State where 12 people were killed on Sunday, prompting oil companies on Tuesday to evacuate three oilfield stations. Output was not immediately affected.

The industry sources said the boat ferry was operating only because poor visibility caused by seasonal dust clouds had grounded helicopters.

One security source said the attack was staged by fighters loyal to a local militia leader, Ateke Tom, to avenge his imprisonment earlier this month.

Rivers State is in the eastern side of the Niger Delta, a vast wetlands region which contains all of Nigeria’s petroleum resources.

Last month multinationals evacuated hundreds of workers’ dependants from the eastern delta after two car bombings in oil company compounds in the Rivers State capital Port Harcourt.

Foreign companies had already pulled out thousands of workers from the western side of the delta after a wave of militant attacks last February, cutting the OPEC nation’s output by a fifth.

Dozens of foreign oil workers were kidnapped last year by armed groups seeking ransoms, by communities seeking greater benefits from oil companies, and by militants fighting for more autonomy for the impoverished delta.

Eight foreign oil workers are currently being held by two different groups. Many analysts had expected the problems to worsen as political turf wars escalate in the runup to a general election in April.

© Reuters 2007. All rights reserved.

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