Three French oil workers kidnapped off Niger Delta: company

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Three French nationals were kidnapped in Nigeria Wednesday when the boat they were working on at an offshore oilfield was attacked, said their employer, the marine services provider Bourbon.

The French foreign ministry confirmed the kidnapping.

"We are completely mobilised in Paris and Abuja to secure their release," ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said, adding that Paris was "in constant contact with the Nigerian authorities, Bourbon officials and the families."

The workers were abducted after pirates in several speedboats attacked the firm's supply ship in a field operated by Addax Petroleum, a subsidiary of the Chinese energy giant Sinopec, Bourbon said.

"The 13 other crew members have remained on board and nobody has been injured. No claim has been made at this stage," it said in a statement.

Bourbon said it was working in close collaboration with the French and Nigerian authorities to secure the release of the workers, taken from the Bourbon Alexandre, a tug boat that was flying the French flag.

The firm has been the target of several attacks in the past two years in the Niger Delta oil-producing area.

Nine Bourbon workers were taken hostage along with their ship in January last year and freed a few days later. In October 2008 another of its ships was seized by pirates off the Nigerian coast.

Two French crew members of a Bourbon supply ship were kidnapped by armed men in August 2008 in a bar in the port of Onne, near Port Harcourt, Nigeria's oil capital. They were freed in September of the same year.

Hundreds of people, mostly oil workers, have been kidnapped in the region since 2006. Bourbon did not say which of Addax's fields was targeted but the firm's main offshore wells are south of the eastern city of Calabar.

Some kidnappings are carried out by militants demanding a fairer distribution of oil revenue, while criminal gangs seeking ransom payments have been responsible for others.

© 2010 AFP

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