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Nigerian Oil Worker Kidnapped, Union Threatens Strike Over Insecurity

The hostage-taking crisis in the Niger Delta region in southeastern Nigeria claimed more victims with the abduction of a local employee of Agip, the Nigerian subsidiary of Italian oil company Eni. Kidnapping of Nigerian oil workers has been on the rise recently, causing the country's white-collar oil workers union to issue a strike threat.

The spokesperson for the police in the main oil city of Port Harcourt, Rita Abbey, confirmed the abduction.

"Yes, I got the story yesterday, but I am yet to get to the office so I can get the details of the man," he said. "But it is confirmed that he was kidnapped."

Reports say the kidnappers of James Charles, the seized worker, have demanded $100,000 ransom for his release.

The past three years have seen an upsurge in violent attacks and kidnappings targeting oil workers in the Niger Delta. Most of the attacks occurred in Rivers State capital Port Harcourt. The police say a former Nigerian oil minister's wife was kidnapped Tuesday in Port Harcourt.

Last week, gunmen kidnapped the nine-year-old son of a Nigerian employee in Port Harcourt and shot dead his 11-year-old sister accompanying him to school.

Nigerian union, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association, says it would begin an indefinite strike Monday unless the government improves security in the Niger Delta.

"We are talking about things that concern life," said Bayo Olowoshile, the secretary-general of the union. "People are dying on a daily basis. We just had a case of last week when the daughter of one of our colleagues in Shell was killed, and the other one has been kidnapped to an unknown place, still held in captivity. We have a series of cases. So as far as we are concerned, we are expecting government to seriously engage us before the expiration of that day."

The Niger Delta is home to the world's eighth biggest oil industry, exporting nearly two million barrels per day, but rebels have led a campaign of sabotage since early 2006 to push their demand for greater local control over oil revenues.

Militants and criminal gangs have been blamed for hundreds of kidnappings in the past three years. Hijackings and kidnappings usually end peacefully after a ransom is paid.