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Nine Korean Oil Workers Held in Nigeria

Armed militants in Nigeria have kidnapped nine Korean oil workers in the southern oil state, Bayelsa. Gilbert da Costa reports the latest attack brings to 18 the number of foreign workers being held in the restive Niger Delta.

Officials say nine Koreans and a Nigerian worker were abducted from an oil facility, early Wednesday.

The men, employed by Korean company Daewoo, were reported to be constructing gas pipelines in the region when the yet-to-be-identified militant group stormed the place and took them hostage.

Welson Ekiyor, spokesman for the Bayelsa state government, confirmed the incident. He says the hostages have been taken to neighboring Rivers State.

"It is not an oil facility. It is a base for a construction company, Daewoo. Daewoo is a construction company with a base very close to Bayelsa State but actually in Rivers State. A place called Ebiema, that is where the base is. And, they collected about nine Koreans and they've taken them to Rivers State. So, the problem is in Rivers State, not Bayelsa," said Ekiyor.

A spokesman for Daewoo has been quoted as saying the company was able to speak with the workers after their capture and confirmed they were unharmed.

Niger Delta militants are still holding nine other foreign oil workers taken hostage from the region. They are five Chinese nationals, three Italians and one Lebanese.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, one of the armed separatist groups operating in the region, has warned that it may step up attacks on foreign workers, unless its political demands were met.