- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2006

YENAGOA, Nigeria (AP) — Armed men kidnapped a Dutch oil worker in Nigeria’s chaotic southern delta yesterday, the second hostage taken in less than 24 hours in a region where regular raids continue to destabilize oil production.

Nigerian police said the assailants arrived at the Shell plant in speedboats and kidnapped a Dutch employee of Westminster Dredging, a contractor to Royal Dutch Shell.

Attacks on oil pipelines and kidnappings, many of them by the largest militant group — Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta — have cut Nigerian oil production by more than 500,000 barrels a day, or 20 percent, this year, adding to the upward pressure on world prices.

Yesterday, light crude futures traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange declined by 7 cents to $75.12 a barrel after U.S. data showed an unexpected buildup in gasoline inventories.

Some Nigerian militant groups have asked for money and others for freedom for imprisoned comrades. Most of the kidnappings have ended peacefully.

A Shell spokesman in Nigeria, Bisi Ojediran, confirmed that “an expatriate was abducted in a community incident,” at Gbaran, outside of the regional capital of Yenagoa. He said he didn’t have details of his nationality.

Mr. Ojediran said a group of local people had mounted a protest march in Gbaran earlier yesterday to demand jobs, roads and schools for their community.

“While this was going, some men in military uniform went to the project site and took the expatriate,” Mr. Ojediran said.

Kidnappings in the restive and impoverished Niger Delta have been common in recent months with militants using the hostages to bargain for a greater share of the wealth from Africa’s largest crude producer.

Late Wednesday, a group of gunmen raided an offshore oil rig and seized a security guard as they retreated, according to the Nigerian navy.

Hafiz Ringim, police commissioner for Bayelsa state where yesterday’s kidnapping occurred, did not say if there was any connection between the two incidents. Mr. Ringim said several teenagers who were involved in planning the protest yesterday were arrested in connection with the kidnapping and were being questioned.

The attackers Wednesday forced their way onto a rig drilling for Nigerian company Consolidated Oil and kidnapped a retired navy officer working as a security guard, said navy spokesman Capt. Obiora Medani.

Capt. Medani said the rig attackers told Consolidated Oil that they came from nearby Sangana community. The group is accusing the oil firm of not meeting the terms of an agreement to help provide them with jobs and local amenities, he said.

Officials of Consolidated Oil declined to comment.

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