Police in Nigeria's oil-rich delta region say three foreign oil workers have been kidnapped in the city of Port Harcourt.

Police say the employees of Italian oil industry contractor Saipem were abducted early Thursday on their way to work.

Police and oil industry sources said the kidnapping appeared to be related to a company dispute with a local community. They say they are working to secure the release of an Italian employee and two other foreign workers.

It follows Wednesday's killing of an American oil company executive, also in Port Harcourt.

The Nigerian militant group MEND (Emancipation of the Niger Delta), which has launched a series of attacks on oil industry facilities in the Delta region, has denied it was involved in both incidents.

Nigerian militants have demanded a greater share of oil profits in the delta region and have repeatedly attacked oil industry targets, conducted kidnappings and stolen crude oil.

Militant efforts have forced oil companies to cut production by some 25 percent since late last year.

Crude oil Wednesday was trading up 1.7 percent, around $73.35 a barrel.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, Bloomberg and Reuters.