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Gunmen Seize Two Foreign Oil Workers in Nigeria


Nigerian police have confirmed that two foreign oil workers have been seized by gunmen, the latest in a series of kidnappings in the troubled delta region. Sarah Simpson reports for VOA from Lagos.

The men were snatched from their car Friday night in Port Harcourt, the main city in Nigeria's oil-producing south.

Both are Turkish nationals working as engineers for a corporation subcontracted to Italian oil company Agip, according to police.

Police Commissioner Felix Ogbaudu told VOA that the two men were kidnapped after their car was stopped by unidentified gunmen.

"Well, I understand they were heading for their guest house here in Port Harcourt and somebody obstructed them when they were in motion and they were taken away," he said.

Police do not know who took the men or where they have been taken to.

The Niger Delta is a hotbed of unrest where more than 60 foreign nationals have been taken hostage this year alone. In addition to the two Turks kidnapped Friday, two Chinese nationals remain in captivity. All the others have been released.

A number of militia groups operate in the area. Some of the kidnappings have been carried out by militia groups who say they are seeking redress from the Nigerian government and oil companies who have pumped billions of dollars of crude from beneath their feet but left residents poor.

However, analysts say that hostage taking is increasingly a money-making enterprise for criminal gangs.

Kidnappers demand tens of thousands of dollars for the safe return of foreign staff, who are generally released unharmed. Oil companies officially deny payment of ransom.

Kidnappings and attacks on oil installations have forced oil companies in the delta to cut production by 20 percent in the past year.