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AFX UK (Focus): Gunmen kidnap Briton from oil rig in southern Nigeria

LAGOS (Thomson Financial) – Armed men kidnapped a Briton from an oil rig in southern Nigeria at the end of a week of politically-motivated abductions of foreigners, industry and diplomatic sources said.

“We can confirm a British national was kidnapped overnight in the Niger Delta,” a diplomat told Agence France-Presse yesterday, adding that he could not release further details.

“A group attacked Trident 8,” said Guy Cantwell, a spokesman for Transocean Inc, referring to a Transocean rig drilling for Conoil off Brass, in the southern Bayelsa state.

Cantwell confirmed that one of the company’s subcontractors was seized but said the company would not speculate on the identity of the attackers.

No group has claimed responsibility.

“Another 23 people are on the rig and are safe. The rig is also safe,” Cantwell told AFP from Transocean’s Houston, Texas headquarters. He said later that the 23 had been brought ashore.

A support vessel for Trident 8 came under attack two weeks ago in an incident where three Nigerians were kidnapped and six people injured, security sources said.

After a temporary lull in the kidnapping of foreigners during elections in April, such attacks are once again on the rise.

In the past week alone, six foreigners were seized Tuesday by the most high-profile militant group operating in the region, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

On Thursday a total of 20 foreigners were seized by different armed groups in three separate incidents but the eight taken in the attack claimed by MEND were later released the same day.

MEND is the best-organised, best-equipped and most media-savvy of the militant groups in the region, industry and security sources say. The MEND claims to be fighting for a larger local share of Nigeria’s oil bounty. The spokesman’s e-mail said the six men seized Tuesday would be released unconditionally on May 30, once Obasanjo has handed over to his successor, as long as no effort was made to secure their release. It also warned of future attacks on Shell facilities in the region. Nigeria is the world’s sixth-biggest oil exporter, accounting for a daily output of some 2.6 million barrels. The country is currently losing 600,000 bpd of that total owing to unrest in the delta.

Published: May 06, 2007

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