Six kidnapped from Italian oil facility off Nigeria

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LAGOS, Oct 26 (Reuters) Gunmen kidnapped six workers from an Italian oil production facility off the coast of Nigeria today, forcing Italy's ENI to halt production of 50,000 barrels per day, authorities said.

It was the second kidnapping from an offshore oilfield in Nigeria in one week, undermining a five-month ceasefire by armed groups which had raised hopes for peace talks with the government.

The gunmen overpowered an oil industry vessel shortly before dawn and used it to to board the nearby Mystras oil production facility, operated by Saipem and SBM Offshore .

''Attackers managed to climb aboard the FPSO Mystras and seized six workers, whose nationalities are Polish, Filipino and Nigerian,'' Saipem parent ENI said in a statement, adding another Nigerian worker is reported to have suffered a slight leg injury.

The Mystras floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel pumps oil from the Okono Okpoho field. Industry sources said output had been stopped.

The Nigerian Navy dispatched a vessel to the area, located about 20 miles (32 km) south of the Bonny Island oil and gas export complex, the sources added.

Oil supply from Nigeria has been down by a fifth since a surge in militant attacks and kidnappings in February 2006.

Armed groups fighting for regional control over the oil resources of the Niger Delta had observed a ceasefire since the inauguration of President Umaru Yar'Adua in May, who promised to address the underlying causes of the conflict.

However, a prominent rebel leader, Henry Okah of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), was arrested on arms trafficking charges in Angola last month and Nigeria has said it was trying to bring him home to face charges.

MEND had threatened to resume attacks and kidnappings, and claimed responsibility for last Saturday's attack on Shell's EA field, in which seven workers were taken hostage for two days.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for this latest attack.

REUTERS SS RK1745

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