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Lebanese Oil Worker Killed in Nigeria; 2 Italians Kidnapped


Police in southern Nigeria say unknown gunmen have killed a Lebanese worker and kidnapped two Italian workers in separate incidents near the city of Port Harcourt.

Authorities say the Lebanese man was killed when the assailants opened fire on his car Friday near the city's airport. At least one other person in the car was wounded.

Police say the Italians, both construction workers, were seized after a shootout between gunmen and police who were escorting the pair.

On Thursday, Nigerian militants threatened to retaliate against the Italian oil firm Agip and the government of Nigeria's Bayelsa state. The militant group MEND said Agip and state officials were behind an escape plan that freed a Lebanese hostage it was holding.

Militant groups have carried out a wave of kidnappings and attacks that have crippled Nigeria's oil industry.

The militants say they want impoverished villages in Nigeria's Niger Delta to get a greater share of the region's oil wealth. MEND (the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) was already holding another two Italians it captured in December.

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer. The country pumped about 2.6 million barrels a day until last year. However, the militant activities in the Niger Delta have cut production by at least 20 percent.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.