LAGOS, Nigeria — Kidnappers grabbed six Filipino workers off a merchant
ship Saturday in the latest hostage-taking in Nigeria's restive
southern oil-producing region, officials said.
The vessel was heading to the oil port of Warri with a crew of 14 when
unidentified gunmen boarded and took away the six non-Nigerians, Delta
state spokesman Ozoene Sheddy said. Initial reports said seven
foreigners were taken, but that proved incorrect, Sheddy said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs on Sunday said the report is still being verified.
DFA said Philippine Ambassador to Nigeria Masaranga Umpa has been tasked to confirm the incident from Nigerian authorities.
As of late afternoon Sunday, the DFA said it has yet to hear from him.
If the incident is confirmed, this will be the fourth of kidnapping of Filipinos in Nigeria.
A Filipino oil worker was held captive along with several foreign
co-workers in February 2006, two in June and three in August. After
reportedly paying ransom, the three have been released.
Militants seeking to pressure the national government into giving more
local control over the area's oil resources have stepped up kidnappings
since launching a wave of attacks on oil facilities in early 2006 that
have cut oil exports by Africa's biggest oil producer 25 percent.
Militant groups behind dozens of kidnappings in recent months couldn't
immediately be reached for comment on the latest incident.
Nearly 100 foreign hostages, mostly oil workers, have generally been
released unharmed, usually after a ransom is paid. However, a Briton
and a Nigerian died in crossfire during a gunbattle between militants
and Nigerian security forces trying to free the hostages.
On Thursday, militants released five Chinese hostages and one Italian
who had been taken in separate incidents. Two Italians and one Lebanese
remained in captivity.
The conflict stems from the deep poverty that afflicts the people of
the Niger River delta despite the area's production of tens of billions
of dollars in oil revenue every year. Violence has cut oil production
below 2 million barrels a day, compared to the previous 2.5 million. -AP