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Nigerian Armed Group Offers to Help Free Kidnapped Lebanese Engineer


Nigerian security authorities have confirmed the kidnapping of a Lebanese construction worker in the country's southern oil region, by unidentified gunmen. Nigeria's most prominent armed group - the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta - says it was not behind the attack and will work to free the Lebanese citizen. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa in Abuja has more.

In a written statement, MEND says it was not involved in the attack. The group says it will assist in locating and negotiating with his abductors. No group has claimed responsibility for the incident.

MEND is the most prominent armed group in the Niger Delta, the country's oil-rich region, where sabotage, kidnappings and attacks on foreign oil workers are rampant.

A Navy spokesman in the main oil city, Port Harcourt, Lieutenant Way Olabisi, says MEND is now a depleted fighting force. He says the army will continue to fight armed groups in the Niger Delta.

"The situation is not like the way it used to be," Olabisi said. "When they declared Operation [oil war], they lost so many of their fighters because they confronted the military. And, at the end they declared a ceasefire. We, the military, never entered any agreement for fighting so declaring a ceasefire or no ceasefire has nothing to do with the military. We are just doing our work. But, maybe because they found out that this thing was not paying off, so they now decided to cool down."

The Lebanese man was abducted Monday from a road project he was working on in Port Harcourt, Nigeria's oil hub.

More than 200 foreigners have been abducted. Most of them have been released in exchange for money, in nearly three years of escalating violence across the southern region.

Well-armed criminal gangs are exploiting the anarchy in the region to stage robberies and kidnappings for ransom.

Military and criminal activities have slowed Nigeria's oil production, which has declined by 25 percent, compared with its peak production of 2.6 million barrels per day.


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