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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Belgian, Moroccan oil workers kidnapped in Nigeria

LAGOS, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Two oil industry contractors, one Belgian and one Moroccan, were kidnapped from their car by armed men in Nigeria's southern oil city of Port Harcourt on Thursday, a company official said.

"Two foreigners working for a company in Borokiri were kidnapped by armed men," said Samuel Agbetuyi, police commissioner for Rivers State.

A colleague of the two men at Dredging International Services in Port Harcourt said the hostages were Belgian and Moroccan.

"They were taken from their car at 6:45. It was an armed kidnap," he said, asking not to be named.

It was the fourth kidnapping in Nigeria's southern oil heartland in a week and came amid a growing wave of militant attacks against the industry that has already cut 25 percent of production in the world's eighth largest exporter.

Two Norwegians and two Ukrainians were kidnapped at gunpoint from an oil services ship off the coast of Nigeria on Wednesday, authorities said.

In two separate incidents last week, a German and three Filipinos were kidnapped in another part of the Niger Delta.

Kidnappings of foreign workers are frequent in the mangrove creeks and swamps of the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria, which is home to all of the OPEC member nation's oil and gas.

Militancy is fuelled by widespread feelings of injustice in the vast wetlands region where most people live in poverty despite the wealth being pumped from their ancestral lands.

Criminal gangs involved in the large-scale theft of crude oil from pipelines have also been involved in kidnappings, and it is often difficult to distinguish between the two.
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