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Two More Kidnappings Confirmed in Nigeria's Troubled Delta

  • Sarah Simpson

A French man and a woman from the Philippines are the latest foreign nationals to be abducted by armed groups in Nigeria's oil-rich, but troubled, Niger River Delta region. Sarah Simpson reports from Lagos.

The French Embassy confirmed a 59-year-old French man, an employee of Total oil company, was snatched by kidnappers as the sun was setting over the Niger River Delta on Wednesday.

In an unrelated incident, a woman from the Philippines was also abducted Wednesday. It is the first time that one of the delta's armed gangs has taken a woman hostage.

Both kidnappings took place in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, which lies in the heart of Nigeria's petroleum producing region. No group has claimed responsibility for the abductions.

Though the delta is oil rich, most residents live an impoverished existence in crudely built homes, often without electricity or access to clean drinking water.

The area has become a hot-bed of unrest. Militia groups operating in the area say they are seeking redress from the Nigerian government and oil companies who have pumped billions of dollars of petroleum from beneath their feet, but left residents poor.

Analysts say that hostage taking is increasingly a money-making enterprise for criminal gangs.

Kidnappers demand tens of thousands of dollars for the safe return of foreign workers, who are generally released unharmed. Oil companies officially deny payment of ransom.

More than 100 foreign nationals working in Nigeria's multibillion-dollar oil industry have been kidnapped in the past 12 months.

Hostage takers typically grab their victims at gunpoint and whisk them off on speed boats to hide-outs in the labyrinth of swamps and creeks of the Niger Delta.

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