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News24.com: Militants kidnap more in Nigeria

26/01/2007 15:00  – (SA)  

Lagos – Six Chinese oil workers who went missing in an armed attack in Nigeria on Thursday are believed to have been abducted, bringing the number of hostages from that assault to nine, says an oil company source.

There were now 38 foreign workers being held by four different armed groups in Africa’s top oil producer, where violent crime and militancy had surged in the past 12 months.

Shell had originally said that three Chinese staff of China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) were abducted and another seven were missing after the raid in which one attacker was killed.

A source at Royal Dutch Shell said: “It is believed a total of nine Chinese were abducted. There was an error in the initial counting.”

CNPC was doing a seismic study in the Sagbama area of Bayelsa State under a contract for Shell when the raid took place.

Foreign oil workers leave Nigeria

Police said the attackers also looted CNPC’s field office and took away an unspecified amount of money. The Chinese embassy in Nigeria declined to comment.

Militants and criminals seeking ransom had intensified attacks and kidnappings against foreign workers in the Niger Delta, a vast wetlands region, which had all Nigeria’s oil.

Oil output from Nigeria, the world’s eighth largest oil exporter, had been reduced by a fifth since a series of militant attacks last February.

Thousands of foreign oil workers had left in the past year and some industry executives saw the situation descending further into anarchy as landmark elections approached in April.

Poverty and corruption fueled militancy and crime in the delta’s neglected communities, where many felt cheated out of the oil wealth being pumped out of their land.

Two engineers kidnapped

Despite the rising chaos, energy-hungry China had moved aggressively into Nigeria’s oil business in the past 12 months.

State-owned CNPC bought drilling rights to four oil licences in May in exchange for commitments to invest $4bn in Nigerian infrastructure.

China agreed to bid for an oil refinery in northern Nigeria and build a power station.

In Rivers State on Tuesday, ransom seekers kidnapped two engineers, one American and one Briton, at gunpoint from their car on the way to work.

That followed the abduction of 24 Filipino seamen from a cargo ship in a remote creek in Delta State on Saturday.

Those kidnappers were demanding the release of two jailed leaders from the delta, and a change in the ruling party’s candidate for a governor of the state in April’s elections.

The April elections should mark Nigeria’s first fully democratic transition but many expect politicians to arm thugs to influence the polls, especially in the delta where elected office comes with a slice of oil revenue.

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