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Hostage Taking Continues Amid Spike in Gangland Violence in Niger Delta


Gunmen seized a foreign national in Nigeria's oil city of Port Harcourt early Friday. The man, a British national, is the latest victim of kidnapping for ransom in the troubled Niger Delta where gangland violence and gunfights have peaked in recent days. For VOA, Sarah Simpson reports from Lagos.

Armed assailants stopped the car of the British oil worker on his morning drive to work, whisking him away at gunpoint.

The UK Embassy in Nigeria has confirmed the man's nationality.

The man is the latest in a long line of over 200 foreign nationals, usually connected to Nigeria's multi-billion dollar oil industry, to be taken hostage.

Victims are generally released unharmed after payment of ransom.

Despite a flurry of releases earlier this week, five foreign nationals are currently held by various armed groups operating in the turbulent wetlands of the Niger Delta where intra-gang violence has peaked.

Gun battles between criminal gangs has increased in recent days, killing civilians in crossfire, though police have not confirmed how many died.

A militant struggle for an increased share of Nigeria's oil wealth to go to the impoverished Niger Delta region has degenerated into an untreated rash of armed robberies, kidnappings and gangland violence.

Militant groups launched a campaign of violence against the oil industry, including hostage takings of oil sector workers, in early 2006.

International companies have evacuated thousands of foreign nationals and their families from the region, source of Africa's largest oil exports.

The uncontrolled violence in the Niger Delta regularly forces up oil prices on international markets.

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