Friday, June 02, 2006

Eight expats kidnapped from Nigerian oil rig

According to Reuters:
Gunmen abducted eight foreign workers in a night-time raid on an oil rig off the coast of Nigeria on Friday, raising new security fears after a series of militant attacks that cut output from Africa's top oil producer.

Some 20 to 30 attackers fired shots as they boarded the rig at 3 a.m. (0200 GMT) from four speedboats but no one was injured, security sources familiar with the situation said.

The abducted men are six Britons, one Canadian and one American, the owners and operators of the Bulford Dolphin rig said. There was no impact on oil output as the facility is an exploration rig that will not produce crude for years.
The New York Times carried the story, as did the UN news service, IRIN. All stories note that relative calm in Nigeria of the last several weeks is now broken, and that oil traders are once again refocusing their attention on potential supply disruptions out of Nigeria.

So far, no known militant group has taken responsibility for the attack. Attacks by MEND (the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta), which has been responsible for a series of attacks since January of this year, are typically followed minutes later by emails to press organizations. Instead Nigerian officials believe that, "the kidnappers were believed to have come from Ekeremor local government area in Bayelsa, a coastal state nearest to the rig." Nigerian officials are working in cooperation with the Bayelsan state government to release the hostages.

The hostage-taking is a big embarassment for the Nigerian government, coming right on the heels of a major inter-African conference on protection the sea-lanes from piracy and "terrorism", a conference attended by Admiral Harry Ulrich, commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and Africa.

For a history of violence in the Delta since early January, see this summary from Reuters.

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