Sunday, August 06, 2006

Nigeria Steps up Efforts to Secure Release of Kidnapped German

Nigerian security agents stepped up efforts Saturday to secure the release of four foreign oil and gas workers, including a German, who were taken prisoner this week in the restive Niger Delta.

The German oil worker was kidnapped on Thursday in Port Harcourt while three Filipinos working on a multi-billion-dollar liquefied gas project were abducted Friday at nearby Bonny Island in Rivers State.

A leading separatist group involved in previous kidnappings denied involvement Saturday.

"We have launched a massive man-hunt for the captors and their victims with a view to effecting their release," state police spokeswoman Barasua Ireju told reporters.

She said security forces were hopeful the men would be released soon, declining to give details of the operation.

Unknown gunmen struck near the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) plant in southern Nigeria on Friday and kidnapped three Filipino men employed by Baker Overseas Technology Services, a contractor of the Nigerian firm.

Their whereabouts and the identities of their kidnappers were still unknown Saturday.

Small ransom could release German

There was no news either of the German oil worker who was abducted Thursday along with his Nigerian driver in Port Harcourt, operational centre of the Niger Delta region where several firms are based.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said it was not involved in either kidnapping.

In an e-mail statement to AFP a MEND spokesman said the German, an employee of oil service firm Bilfinger and Berger, "was taken by a band that usually involves in armed robberies in Port Harcourt."

"I'm sure he will be released shortly after a small ransom," the spokesman said.

Attacks on oil refineries increase

Since January, attacks on oil facilities and staff by militants have risen in the region, source of Nigeria's multi-billion-dollar oil and gas wealth.

The attacks were launched to press demands by local communities for a larger share in oil revenues and compensation for the destruction of the region as a result of oil exploration.

Some groups are seeking autonomy or independence for the Niger Delta.

More than 30 expatriate oil workers have been kidnapped in the past seven months but were released after spending days or sometimes weeks in captivity.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest producer, accounting for a daily output of 2.6 million barrels, but unrest has cut a quarter of that figure in recent months.

DW staff / AFP (nda)

Deutsche Welle 08/2006


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