Nine barge workers abducted in Nigeria

Nigerian militants abducted nine foreign workers from a Willbros Group pipelaying barge and attacked a Shell platform and an NNPC pipeline.

Offshore staff

(West Africa) - Nigerian militants abducted nine foreign workers from a pipelaying barge and attacked at least two other facilities early Saturday morning.

Reuters reports that militants from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said they were targeting all oil pipelines, production platforms, and export terminals in Delta state.

"A barge was attacked by several speed boats. There was an exchange of fire and nine foreigners were kidnapped," an oil industry source said.

A local source said the rebels identified the captives as three Americans, a Briton, two Egyptians, a Filipino, and two Thais.

The pipelaying barge, operated by oil services company Willbros Group, was operating in the Forcados River 50 km (30 mi) west of the city of Warri in the Forcados area of Delta state.

A Shell spokesperson said a platform 20 km (13 mi) offshore from where supertankers load crude oil caught fire during the attack, and an explosion was heard on the Chanomi Creek, where there are pipelines.

She added, "The fire is out, and we are investigating the cause and damage to the facility."

The export platform handles 380,000 b/d of crude from all of Shell's western delta wells.

Militants said they also destroyed a gas pipeline operated by state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. running from the Escravos area in Delta state to the Kaduna refinery in northern Nigeria.

The militants said, "All pipelines, flowstations, and crude loading platforms will be targeted for destruction within the next few hours by our units which entered into Delta state in good numbers."

The militant group wants more local control over the oil wealth of the Niger delta.

The latest wave of militant violence comes after helicopter gunship attacks on targets in Delta state by the Nigerian military earlier this week.

The military said their attacks were aimed at gangs stealing crude oil from pipelines in the Delta state, but community leaders said they targeted villages suspected of harboring militants.

"Expatriates must realize that they have been caught up in a war and the Nigerian government can do nothing to guarantee the security of anyone," the militants said in an email.

02/18/06

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