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BBC News: Gunmen kidnap Nigeria oil workers

Friday, 25 May 2007, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK 

Gunmen have kidnapped six oil workers in Nigeria’s main oil-producing region, sources in the region say.

The six were reportedly in a boat laying pipelines off the Bayelsa State coast when they were attacked.

The nationalities of those seized is not yet clear. Such kidnappings are fairly common in the Niger Delta.

The hostages are usually released unharmed after ransom deals between the kidnappers and oil companies – although this is officially denied.

Meanwhile, long queues have formed outside Nigeria’s petrol stations on the second day of a strike by oil workers, demanding welfare benefits.

More than 100 foreign workers and a few Nigerians have been kidnapped so far this year in the swampy creeks of the Niger Delta where the bulk of Nigeria’s oil comes from.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer.

Although the country’s oil money comes from the Niger Delta, most people in the region remain deeply impoverished.
The militants often say they are fighting for larger control of the oil money and demand the release of two leaders being held on charges of treason and money laundering.

The militants – the most prominent of which is the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) – stepped up their attacks after last month’s elections which gave the governing party a landslide victory.

Local and international observers have criticised the vote as deeply flawed. The opposition says it was rigged and has called for a re-run.

In addition to kidnappings, the militants have also bombed several oil pipelines, cutting production and helping push world oil prices to near-record highs.

The militants have promised more disruptions ahead of next week’s inauguration of the new government.

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