Nine Korean oil workers abducted in Nigeria

Nine Korean oil workers abducted in Nigeria

Militants have kidnapped nine South Korean oil workers and one local worker in the Niger Delta region of southern Nigeria, bringing the total number of foreigners currently held hostage there to 18.

The latest attack came barely five days after the abduction of five Chinese telecoms workers and a month after the kidnapping of three Italians and one Lebanese, all of whom are still being held.

The militants stormed a Daewoo oil facility that was guarded by about 50 soldiers and took the men hostage, Bayelsa State spokesman Welson Ekiyor told AFP.

“The nine Korean workers were taken by the kidnappers from a Daewoo oil facility on the outskirts of Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa,” Ekiyor added Wednesday.

More than 60 foreign oil workers have been abducted in Africa’s largest oil producer over the past year and dozens of Nigerian workers have been killed.

The gang behind the latest attack has not been identified but the spokesman said: “This is one abduction too many. We as a government will do everything humanly possible to secure the release of the men and put a stop to the criminal activities of the militants.”

A Daewoo spokesperson in Seoul confirmed the abduction and said the men were seized just before 5:00 am (0400 GMT).

Brigadier-General Alfred Ilogho, commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF), charged with protecting oil installations in the volatile Niger delta, vowed to track down the kidnappers.

Daewoo Engineering and Construction was working on a pipeline contract for the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell when the seizure took place, an industry source said.

The Daewoo spokesperson said the company had set up an emergency taskforce to secure the workers’ release, adding “We have yet to locate them and find exactly who the kidnappers are.”

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

The most vocal armed separatist group in the region, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), notorious for previous abductions, said it was not involved in the latest incident.

MEND is currently holding three Italians and one Lebanese taken hostage since December 7 and on Sunday it it again threatened to step up its attacks on oil installations unless its demands were met.

Another, non-identified group is holding five Chinese telecoms workers abducted in the Delta last Friday.

MEND is demanding the release of former Bayelsa state governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, jailed on corruption charges, as well as separatist leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari and other detainees.

The group also wants a larger share for southern Nigerians in oil revenues, along with compensation for communities affected by oil pollution.

Some 37 Nigerian troops and dozens of Nigerian oil workers were killed by the militants last year while more than 60 foreigners, mostly oil workers, were kidnapped.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, which derives more than 95 percent of its foreign exchange earnings from oil, lost more than half a million barrels a day last year due to unrest.

According to the country’s Finance Minister Nenadi Usman, 570 billion naira (around 4.4 billion dollars / 3.5 billion euros) in revenue was lost to unrest last year.

“Early in the second quarter of 2006, there was a loss of production of 600,000 barrels per day from the joint venture operations,” Usman said this week.

“The loss was due principally to social disruptions in the Niger Delta which continued until the end of fiscal year 2006,” she added.

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