Five foreigners on hijacked vessel in Nigeria

11:48, 11 September 2008
Ukraine
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Two Britons, two South Africans and a Ukrainian

Two Britons, two South Africans and a Ukrainian were on board an oil supply vessel which was hijacked in Nigeria`s oil-producing Niger Delta on Tuesday, private security sources said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

One security contractor said unidentified gunmen attacked the vessel, H.D. Blue Ocean, on Tuesday at the entrance of the Sambreiro River in the delta, a vast network of mangrove creeks which is home to Africa`s biggest oil industry.

Nigerian military officials have not confirmed the attack.

James McLaughlin, spokesman for the British High Commission in Nigeria, said: "I can confirm that there were two Britons on board the vessel. We have been in touch with the Nigerian authorities to press for their early release."

South Africa`s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that two of its nationals were abducted in the delta on Tuesday, but gave no further details and made no reference to an attack on a vessel.

"High Commissioner (Stix) Sifingo and his consular officials will continue to do everything in their power, working with the Nigerian authorities and employer, to help find a speedy and amicable resolution," the ministry statement said.

Another security contractor in Nigeria also said those on board included two Britons, two South Africans and a Ukrainian. Eight Nigerians were also thought to have been on the vessel.

Insecurity in the Niger Delta surged in early 2006 when militants, who say they are fighting for more local control of the impoverished region`s oil wealth, started blowing up oil pipelines and kidnapping foreign workers.

More than 200 foreigners have been abducted in the delta over the past two years. Almost all have been released unharmed.

Criminal gangs have taken advantage of the breakdown in law and order and the instability has become as much about control of a lucrative trade in stolen oil and abductions for ransom as about political struggle. Vessels are regularly seized.

Gunmen attacked a vessel operated by the local unit of Italian energy group Eni (ENI.MI: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) close to Sambreiro early on Sunday, killing one crew member and abducting another for ransom, the army said.

That attack came barely three weeks after gunmen hijacked a supply vessel belonging to oil services company West Africa Offshore with eight Nigerian crew members as it returned from the Agbami offshore field operated by U.S. firm Chevron.

Reuters

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