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Associated Press: Police say Nigerian worker kidnapped in oil-rich south

© AP 2007-07-22

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria (AP) – A Nigerian staff member of a petrochemical company was kidnapped Saturday in restive southern Nigeria’s oil region, police said.

Rivers State police spokeswoman Irejua Barasua said four gunmen seized the man in the state capital, Port Harcourt. The victim works for Indian-owned Eleme Petrochemical, Barasua said.

A private security contractor, speaking on condition anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the press, said the man was kidnapped from his residence at midday. No other details of the incident were immediately available.

Kidnappings and oil rig attacks have become common in the southern delta region of Africa’s largest crude producer, where oil giants such as Royal Dutch Shell PLC, ExxonMobil and Eni SpA have large operations. The assailants typically range from militants demanding political concessions to criminal gangs seeking ransoms.

Between May and June, 12 Indians working for Eleme Petrochemical were kidnapped. Each was released after about a month. As a result, the company pulled out all 203 Indian staff and suspended operations at their plant in Port Harcourt last month.

More than 150 foreigners have been seized in the region so far this year, as well as many Nigerians. About a dozen remain in captivity. Those taken hostage are usually released unharmed, though some have reported being beaten, and a Belarusian woman was shot in the knee and held for more than a week without medical attention.

Late Friday in Port Harcourt, several gunmen in a minibus opened fire on a truck containing several foreign workers in an apparent attempt to kidnap them, sparking a gunfight with police escorting them, according to an Associated Press reporter who witnessed the incident. Terrorized civilians abandoned their vehicles in the middle of one of the city’s busiest roads. It was not known who the expatriates worked for.

Also Friday in the same city, a Lebanese businessman was shot dead in his home in what Barasua described as another attempted kidnapping.

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