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7 Foreign Oil Workers Taken Hostage in Nigeria - 2003-11-29

Seven foreign oil workers have been taken hostage at gunpoint in Nigeria' oil-rich delta region.

The oil workers were reportedly in a boat carrying out a training mission in the Niger Delta, when they were ambushed and fired upon by people armed with AK-47 assault rifles. News of their abduction was released late Friday.

Since Friday night, two of the hostages reportedly have been released to deliver a message - a ransom demand for $5 million naira, around $30,000.

The hostages are from Australia, Britain, Colombia, Moldova and Russia. Foreign nationals are prized targets for hostage-takers, who feel they can command bigger ransoms for foreigners.

The latest hostages are employees of a Scotland-based company, Bredero Shaw, which specializes in anti-corrosion coatings for pipes. Though Bredero Shaw has operated in the Niger Delta for 20 years, this is the first time its employees have been taken hostage.

Officials say negotiations are under way to secure their release.

Hostage-taking incidents are common in the Niger Delta. This is the fourth abduction of oil workers to have taken place in the region this month alone.

Captors are usually poor local youths who want to extract cash from one of the numerous international oil companies that operate in the area.

The hostages are usually released unharmed after negotiations with local chiefs. Oil companies routinely deny that ransoms are paid.