Nigerian security forces have stepped up their campaign to free foreign oil workers being held by suspected militants in the troubled Niger Delta.
The Nigerian government has deployed thousands of soldiers to the oil-rich Niger Delta to prevent attacks on foreign oil workers there. However, armed militants have continued their assault with impunity. More than 30 oil workers have been kidnapped this year and in almost in all instances, a ransom demand was made.
Police spokesman Haz Iwendi says tracking the kidnappers has been a huge challenge for the security forces.
"We have sent our detectives out and they've gone out to see what they can get," said Iwendi. "We have always tracked all the rest down. The problem is that because of the nature of the area, there are so many creeks there and everybody has so many grievances. They have a lot of grievances. Each one coming up every day, so as they come up we try to solve them. But this one for instance, we are still on them, we want to identify which group is leading it."
Kidnappings have increased in the past few months, which has led some to say the payment of ransom by oil companies for the release of their kidnapped workers is exacerbating the crisis.
"I think it is the same terror tactics going on and apparently on every occasion the militants have been pacified, maybe through ransom being paid," said Maxi Okwu, a political analyst in Abuja. "So it has become a veritable [money-maker]. I believe it is all in that line that having tasted blood, the young men are going for the kill."
A Belgian and a Moroccan, both oil industry contractors, were seized Thursday by armed men in Nigeria's southern oil city of Port Harcourt. It was the fourth kidnapping in the troubled Niger Delta in a week.
Two Norwegians and two Ukrainians were kidnapped on Wednesday, while a German and three Philippines were abducted last week.
The militancy in the region is driven by the widespread feelings of injustice in the delta, which is the source of all of Nigeria's oil and gas.
The federal authorities have launched a new initiative to improve living conditions in the impoverished region but residents have dismissed it as belated and inadequate.