10 Kidnapped at Nigerian Oil Pipeline

10 Kidnapped at Nigerian Oil Pipeline

Gunmen stormed a compound housing expatriate pipeline workers in the oil-rich southern region Wednesday, kidnapping nine South Koreans and a Nigerian, officials said.

Dozens of soldiers and security guards at the complex failed to foil the latest in a series of kidnappings in the area, said Ekiyor Wilson, a local government spokesman.

“We’re making efforts to locate the men and their captors,” he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the pre-dawn raid in southern Nigeria, where most of the crude is pumped in Africa’s oil giant. A militant group that has carried out dozens of kidnappings, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, said it wasn’t responsible.

South Korea’s Daewoo Engineering and Construction confirmed that employees who had been working on a gas pipeline were taken hostage and said it was unclear what the abductors were demanding for their release.

South Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Kim Ho-young said the government was trying to find out the identity of the captors. “The government will exert all possible efforts for the prompt and safe return of the kidnapped workers,” Kim told reporters in Seoul.

Company officials spoke by mobile phone with the workers after their capture and confirmed they were unharmed, Daewoo spokesman Song Sung-rak said in Seoul.

Han Sang-ho, a Daewoo official in Nigeria, told South Korea’s YTN television the workers were attacked while asleep at their dormitory. He said gunshots were fired during a 40-minute assault.

More than 80 foreigners were seized last year in the Niger Delta region, which remains deeply impoverished despite the area’s vast petroleum fields.

Kidnappings by gangs seeking payment or jobs in the oil industry usually end peacefully after a ransom is paid.

Separate from the Koreans taken Wednesday, five Chinese telecom workers, two Italians and a Lebanese are also currently in captivity.

Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil exporter and a leading exporter of crude to the U.S. But militant attacks on pipelines and kidnappings have led to significant cuts in production. The attackers argue that impoverished residents don’t receive enough of the revenues from the country’s oil.

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