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BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific: Gunmen in South Nigeria Kidnap Subcontractor Working for Shell

From Philippine Daily Inquirer website     

Gunmen in southern Nigeria on Tuesday kidnapped a Filipino national working as a subcontractor for oil company Shell and killed at least one policeman who was escorting him, industry sources and police said.

“One Filipino was kidnapped at 9 a.m. (0800 GMT) and two MOPOL police were killed on the Owerri-Port Harcourt road,” a private security adviser said, adding that the Filipino was a Shell subcontractor.

Another industry source said only one policeman had been killed in the incident. MOPOL is an elite unit of the Nigerian police tasked with escorting VIPs among other duties.

“I can confirm the Filipino was taken away and a policeman shot but I can’t say if he’s dead,” National police spokesman Haz Iwendi told Agence France-Presse.

Iwendi added that it happened in Imo State, of which Owerri is the capital.

In Manila, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos of the Migrant Workers Affairs said he was trying to verify the report.

The latest kidnapping brings to 30 the number of foreigners currently held hostage in southern Nigeria’s oil-producing region. Twenty-four of the hostages are Filipinos who were seized from a cargo vessel, two of them are Italians and the remaining three are a Briton, an American and a Lebanese national.

Nine Chinese oil workers from the China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) kidnapped January 25 were freed on Sunday.

Another group of Chinese telecoms workers seized at the beginning of the year were freed on January 17 and have since returned home.

The seizing of the 24 Filipinos on January 20 prompted Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to slap a temporary ban on workers traveling to Nigeria for employment.

The past few weeks have seen both a sharp increase in overall hostage takings in the Niger delta and an increase in the number of Asian workers targeted.

The kidnappers are a mixture of separatist groups with a political agenda and criminal gangs lured by the attraction of easy ransom money.

Some security experts say that Asians make easier targets because security measures surrounding some of them are less draconian than for Western workers.

Other security men see it as a question of numbers. They say more Asians are coming to work in Nigeria’s oil sector and that accordingly more of them are being taken hostage.

Close to 4,000 Filipinos are currently employed in Nigeria.

The Asian country that has invested most in Nigeria in recent years is China, and analysts say it is possible that gunmen seeking to discourage Chinese investment in the country’s oil sector may simply target Filipinos by mistake.

“It would be foolish to think that the average Nigerian really distinguishes between a Chinese and a Filipino,” one security source said.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

(C) 2007 BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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