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Father of Chelsea player Mikel abducted in Nigeria

- Associated Press - Monday, August 15, 2011

LAGOS, NIGERIA (AP) - The father of Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel has been abducted in Nigeria's restive central region, police said Monday.

Plateau state police commissioner Dipo Ayeni told The Associated Press that Michael Obi disappeared from his home on Friday. Ayeni said he had no other details about the kidnapping.

"We are still searching to find his location," Ayeni said.

A spokesman for Nigeria's federal police command in Abuja, the country's capital, declined to comment.

London-based Sport Entertainment & Media Group, John Obi Mikel's management company, said no ransom demand had been made. It said Chelsea was looking at "security issues" after the abduction.

"Mikel was informed by his manager prior to the Stoke v Chelsea match & decided to play so as not to let down his team & family," the media group said on Twitter.

John Obi Mikel has played with Chelsea since 2006. He previously played for Nigerian Premier League club Plateau United and on Nigeria's Under-20 squad.

"We will give Mikel and his family our full support at this most difficult time," Chelsea said on its website.

Nigeria, an oil-rich country of 150 million people, is almost evenly split between Muslims in the north and the predominantly Christian south. Plateau state, in Nigeria's fertile central belt, has seen thousands die in recent years in religious and ethnic violence rooted largely on political and economic issues.

Mikel's family, from the Igbo tribe, are a minority in the area.

Kidnappings in Plateau state are a rarity when compared to Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta, where militants and criminal gangs often kidnap foreigners for ransom. Middle class Nigerian families also increasingly find themselves targeted in the country's east as well.

The abduction comes after a Forbes magazine survey in June named Mikel as the seventh highest-paid African player in Europe. The magazine listed Mikel's salary as $5.8 million a year.

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Jon Gambrell can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP

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