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Oil Worker Kidnapped in Nigeria's Delta Region


Another oil worker has been kidnapped by gunmen in Nigeria's troubled Delta region. Sarah Simpson reports for VOA from Lagos.

A spokesman for oil company Shell Nigeria, Bisi Ojediran, told VOA that one contract worker, a national of the Philippines, was taken hostage while traveling along the Owerri-Port Harcourt road.

Port Harcourt is the main commercial center for Nigeria's oil-rich delta region.

Some news reports from the region say there was an exchange of gunfire during the abduction and one police officer who had been escorting the worker, was killed.

But the deputy police commissioner of Rivers State, with responsibility for Port Harcourt, said he had no information about any new attack on oil workers. Full details of kidnappings are often difficult to determine for many hours and sometimes days in a region with poor communications.

Hostage taking has become frequent in the Niger Delta and attacks on oil installations and personnel last year cut oil exports by about a quarter.

This latest abduction brings the number of foreign nationals believed held by armed groups in the delta region to 30.

Last month, the Philippines blocked foreign nationals from accepting work contracts in Nigeria after 24 were taken hostage in a single incident.

Militia groups operating in the area say they want a bigger share of the wealth from the Nigerian government and oil companies who have pumped billions of dollars of crude from beneath their soil, but left residents impoverished.

But analysts say that hostage taking is increasingly a moneymaking 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.

Along with the 25 hostages from the Philippines, there are two Italians, one American, one Briton, and one Lebanese believed held in the labyrinth of creeks that make up the Niger River Delta.