Frenchman kidnapped in oil-rich south of Nigeria

8th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

LAGOS, Feb 8, 2007 (AFP) - A Frenchman became the latest kidnap victim in the oil-rich Niger Delta when he was seized in Port Harcourt, Nigeria's oil capital, late Wednesday, an industry source said early Thursday.

LAGOS, Feb 8, 2007 (AFP) - A Frenchman became the latest kidnap victim in the oil-rich Niger Delta when he was seized in Port Harcourt, Nigeria's oil capital, late Wednesday, an industry source said early Thursday.

The unidentified man, married to a Nigerian woman and under local contract to French oil group Total, was picked up by armed men as he returned home, the source said.

Last week three Nigerian policemen were killed during an attack on a Total facility at Obagi in the southern Rivers state, in a fresh outbreak of violence against oil multinationals.

But this is the first time a Frenchman working on a local contract for Total has been seized in southern Nigeria.

Given the persistent lack of security, many companies including Shell have recently sent the families of expatriate workers away from Port Harcourt.

The past few weeks have seen a sharp increase in hostage takings in the Niger Delta region of southern Nigeria. The attacks are carried out by a mixture of separatist groups with a political agenda and criminal gangs lured by the attraction of easy ransom money.

The separatists want a bigger share of the oil revenue -- Nigeria is the world's sixth largest exporter -- for the local population, much of which lives in grinding poverty.

Gunmen Wednesday released a seriously ill British hostage in Nigeria but a Filipina became another kidnap victim in the Niger Delta where the taking of foreigners shows no sign of letting up.

The woman was abducted at midday from the centre of Port Harcourt in Rivers State, the centre of Nigeria's oil industry, by gunmen who immediately switched off her phone and took her to an unknown destination.

It follows the abduction Tuesday of a Filipino employee of Netco Dietsmann -- the Nigerian arm of a Monaco-based oil services company -- who was seized from a company car heading for the airport in Owerri, the capital of Imo State.

The latest two incidents bring to 26 the number of Filipino nationals being held hostage in southern Nigeria. The other 24 were seized from a cargo vessel in Nigerian waters in January.

Their kidnapping prompted Philippines President Gloria Arroyo to slap a temporary ban on her nationals coming to work in Nigeria, where nearly 4,000 Filipinos are already employed.

In addition to the 26 Filipinos, two Italians, one American and a Lebanese national are still being held by different armed groups.

Nine Chinese oil workers from the China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) kidnapped January 25 were freed on Sunday.

Nigeria, which derives more than 95 percent of its foreign exchange earnings from oil, lost more than half a million barrels a day last year to unrest in the Delta.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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