Four foreign oil workers kidnapped in Nigeria

Armed men on Monday kidnapped four more foreign oil workers in Nigeria’s southern oil city of Port Harcourt but released three Filipinos abducted more than 10 days ago in the latest of a series of incidents in volatile Niger Delta.

“The four oil workers were kidnapped in the early hours of today. The situation is becoming worrisome. We need prayers because what is happening now could also affect our Nigerian brothers,” River state police spokesperson Ireju Barasua said by telephone from Port Harcourt, the state capital.

She said only two—a Briton and and an American—of the four oil workers could yet be identified.

“We are definitely working hard to ensure their release,” she said, but when she was reminded that seven other foreign oil workers were still being held, she went mute.

Ireland’s foreign ministry said later that an Irishman was among the four workers.

The man has been named by RTE state radio as Brian Fogarty, an employee of United States oil-services company Halliburton.
Fogarty’s father, Desmond, said he was abducted by armed men from a Port Harcourt bar.

The foreign ministry said the Irish embassy in Nigeria was providing assistance to Fogarty’s family.

Officials of the US embassy in Nigeria on Monday discussed the fastest ways to secure the release of their citizen, a source close to the embassy said.

News of the latest kidnappings followed the release on the same day of three Filipino oil-industry workers abducted by armed militants 10 days ago.

Cornelio Fallaria, Daniel Monteagudo and Alberto Torres were turned over to embassy officials on Monday morning, Foreign Undersecretary Esteban Conejos told reporters. The three were abducted on August 4 on Bonny Island, where they were working on a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural-gas project.

Nigerian police spokesperson Haz Iwendi confirmed their release.

Port Harcourt is at the heart of Nigeria’s multibillion-dollar oil and gas industry where many oil firms have their operational base.

The latest abductions take the number of foreign oil workers being held by militants in the Niger Delta to 11, including two Norwegians, two Ukranians, one German, one Belgian and one Moroccan.

One group, the previously unknown Movement for the Niger Delta People (MONDP), said it was holding a German against the release of two local leaders standing trial for corruption.

The MONDP said he was being held to demand the release of two Niger Delta leaders, former Bayelsa state governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and regional warlord Mujahid Dokubo-Asari. The two men are standing trial for corruption and treasonable felony in Abuja.

No claims of responsibility have been made for the other 10 foreigners.

The Belgian news agency Belga reported late on Monday that a Belgian and a Moroccan oil worker had been released, citing their employer, Dredging International. The two men were said to be in good health and due to fly to Belgium on Wednesday. No one was available for comment at the company’s Belgian offices when contacted late Monday.

Since the beginning of the year, separatist militants have stepped up their campaign for greater benefits from the oil proceeds from local communities and in protest against environmental devastation.

Since then more than 35 expatriate oil workers have been abducted, although all were released after spending days or weeks in captivity.

Nigeria, a nation of 130-million people, is the world’s sixth-biggest crude exporter with a daily output of 2,6-million barrels, a quarter of which is lost to unrest.

The militants have launched damaging attacks since January on oil installations in the region.—Sapa-AFP

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