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Gunmen Seize Five Foreign Workers in Oil-Rich Southern Nigeria


Suspected militants in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta have abducted five foreign oil workers in the latest attack on the oil industry. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa reports the attack occurred hours after the country's most prominent armed group ended a month-long truce.

Rivers state Police Commissioner Felix Igbaudu told VOA that two Nigerians were injured in the dawn attack off the southern coast of Nigeria.

"They attacked a rig operated by a Nigerian company for Shell," said Igbaudu. "Five expatriate oil workers were kidnapped in the early hours of this morning. They injured a mobile policemen, also injured a Shell staff, a Nigerian. That was what happened. And the location was Soku, the platform was operated by Lone Star Drilling."

Those kidnapped were one Australian, two New Zealanders, one Venezuelan and one Lebanese.

Shell says the attack has not affected its oil production in the troubled region where oil output has been slashed by a quarter due to unrelenting violence.

Nigeria's best known militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which backed out of a unilateral cease-fire Tuesday has denied responsibility for the raid. It blamed criminal gangs driven by huge ransoms paid to secure the release of those kidnapped.

MEND's decision to resume attacks on oil facilities and personnel is seen as a setback for the new administration's quest to resolve the crisis.

The group had said it was halting attacks for 30 days to give the new government some time to respond to its grievances, but says it has not seen enough commitment on the part of the administration.

Some 15 foreign hostages are being held by different armed groups in the Niger Delta. Over 100 foreigners have been abducted this year alone, out of more than 200 seized in the region.

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