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Nigerian militants release 8 oil workers

Latest update : 2008-07-27

Eight of the foreign oil workers kidnapped over the last 48 hours in the Niger Delta were released late on Saturday, but the other eight remain in captivity.

LAGOS - Gunmen in Nigeria released eight foreign oil workers seized from a vessel off the Niger Delta on
Saturday but eight other people abducted in separate incidents were still being held, security officials said.
 

The eight Russian, Latvian and Lithuanian men were seized
early on Saturday from a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanker
off the mouth of the Bonny river in the delta, a network of
mangrove creeks which is home to Africa's biggest oil industry.
 

Lieutenant-Colonel Sagir Musa, military spokesman in the
eastern Niger Delta, said the eight had been voluntarily
released by their captors.
 

"They have been released late this evening ... I doubt that
any ransom was paid," Musa said, without giving further details.
 

Private security contractors said the men were thought to
have been working for Global Gas and Refining Ltd, a Nigerian
subsidiary of U.S.-based Global Energy Inc. run by a prominent
local businessman, which may have aided their rapid release.
 

The company could not immediately be reached for comment.
 

Insecurity in the world's eighth biggest oil exporter has
cut Nigeria's oil output by around a fifth since militants
launched a campaign of violent sabotage in early 2006 to press
for greater development in their neglected communities.
 

Despite half a century of oil extraction, most villagers in
the Niger Delta remain mired in poverty, while the industry has
polluted their land and water.
 

 

LAGOS - Gunmen kidnapped eight foreign oil workers from a vessel off Nigeria's Niger Delta early on Saturday, bringing to 16 the number of industry workers seized in the past 48 hours, security sources said.

 

The men were taken from a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanker off the mouth of the Bonny river, a network of mangrove creeks opening into the Gulf of Guinea which is home to Africa's biggest oil industry, two private security contractors said.

 

"It was last night at about 1 to 1.30 a.m. (0000-0030 GMT), there was an attack on a ship and 8 whites were kidnapped ... They were taken under gunfire," said Lieutenant-Colonel Sagir Musa, military spokesman in the eastern Niger Delta.

 

The two private security contractors said the men were believed to have been working for Global Gas and Refining Ltd, a Nigerian subsidiary of U.S.-based Global Energy Inc.

 

Their nationalities were not immediately known and the company could not immediately be reached for comment.

 

Insecurity in the world's eighth biggest oil exporter has cut Nigeria's oil output by around a fifth since militants launched a campaign of violent sabotage in early 2006 to press for greater development in their neglected communities.

 

Despite half a century of oil extraction, most villagers in the Niger Delta remain mired in poverty, while the industry has polluted their land and water.

 

Criminal gangs have taken advantage of the breakdown of law and order, funding themselves through a lucrative trade in stolen crude oil and kidnapping businessmen, local politicians and expatriates for ransom.

 

More than 200 foreigners have been seized since the militants began their campaign more than two years ago. Almost all have been released unharmed.

 

 

 

"ALL IS FAIR IN WAR"

 

In an attack late on Thursday, gunmen took 11 Russians and a Ukrainian on a vessel off Bonny Island. Some were released on Friday but five were still being held, security officials said.

 

More than a dozen men in speedboats kidnapped two oil engineers, one from the Philippines and one Nigerian, from a vessel in the main industry hub of Port Harcourt on Friday. Another Filipino was seized while buying food on land.

 

Security sources said it was not clear whether the same group was behind all the kidnappings. No ransom demands have been made publicly.

 

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) -- the region's main militant group which has pledged to bomb oil pipelines over the next few weeks -- did not immediately claim responsibility for Thursday and Friday's attacks.

 

"None of our units have reported being involved in any kidnapping yet," MEND said in an e-mail to Reuters late on Friday, but said the insecurity would help its campaign.

 

"These gangs have their advantages even though we do not support their motives and sometimes the modus. The truth is that all is fair in war, as they have a way of frustrating the military and helping them lose focus," it said.

Date created : 2008-07-27

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