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Gunmen attack vessels in Nigeria’s restive delta


Thu Dec 4, 2008 5:30pm EST

By Nick Tattersall

LAGOS, Dec 4 (Reuters) – Gunmen attacked two oil services vessels in separate incidents in Nigeria’s restive Niger Delta on Thursday, kidnapping a Russian, a Mexican and seven Nigerians, security sources working in the industry said.

The vessel Oceanic Orion was attacked some 13 nautical miles off the coast of Akwa Ibom state near a crude oil rig operated by Canada’s Addax Petroleum (AXC.TO: QuoteProfileResearchStock Buzz) ACX.L, the security sources told Reuters, asking not to be named.

The two expatriates and one Nigerian were taken.

“It’s the sixth time this year that OML 123 has been attacked,” one of the sources said, referring to the 370 sq-km licence area, Addax’s largest by reserves and production.

Addax officials were not immediately available to comment.

The second vessel, Tiger Fish, which belongs to Hercules Offshore Ltd, was hijacked around the Sombreiro River area and six of its crew were kidnapped. The captors were demanding a 3 million naira ($23,000) ransom, one source said.

One person was killed in a separate attack by gunmen on a convoy from the local unit of U.S oil firm ExxonMobil (XOM.N: QuoteProfile,ResearchStock Buzz).

Piracy is common in the Gulf of Guinea off Nigeria’s Atlantic coast while attacks on oil industry facilities and kidnappings for ransom are frequent in the creeks of the Niger Delta, home to Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry.

The insecurity has cut Nigeria’s oil output, which averages around 2 million barrels per day (bpd), by a fifth over the past three years. The country’s installed production capacity is around 3 million bpd.



Gunmen attacked a convoy belonging to ExxonMobil’s (XOM.N: Quote,ProfileResearchStock Buzz) local unit between the town of Eket and the Qua Iboe oil export terminal in Akwa Ibom on Wednesday, killing one person who was not an employee, the company said.

A witness said gunmen opened fire on the convoy, which was accompanied by armed police, in what appeared to have been a bungled kidnap attempt.

“They missed one of the vehicles conveying some expatriate staff,” the witness told Reuters.

Addax Chief Executive Jean Claude Gandur told Reuters in October that militant and pirate activity had led the oil exploration and production firm to hire ex-U.S. military speed boats staffed by Nigerian navy personnel.

Foreign oil companies routinely hire private security contractors in southern Nigeria. Addax decided to bolster its security measures after an attack on one of its supply vessels in June, in which a contractor was killed.

The line is blurred in the delta between militants who claim to be fighting for a fairer share of the region’s natural resources and criminal gangs who fund themselves through the theft of industrial quantities of crude oil.

A committee set up by the government to look into pacifying the region estimated this week that $20.7 billion worth of oil revenues had been lost to oil theft and vandalism in the first nine months of the year.

Hundreds of foreigners have been seized in the Niger Delta since early 2006. Most have been released unharmed after a payment has been made, security sources say.

Gunmen last week kidnapped a Scottish man working for an oil services firm, while militants have held two Britons captive for more than two months in the delta, one of the longest periods of detention in recent years.

(Additional reporting by Ani Akpan in Calabar) (Writing by Randy Fabi; Editing by Michael Roddy)



Views in these blog posts are those of the author and not of Reuters.
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