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Foreign workers kidnapped in Nigerian oil city

Written by: Staff
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PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria, May 11 (Reuters) A group of foreign workers was kidnapped from a car under police escort in Nigeria's southern oil capital Port Harcourt today, a day after a US oil executive was shot dead in the same city.

A militant group which has been waging a five-month-old campaign of attacks against the oil industry said it was not involved in the abduction, which police and oil industry sources attributed to a community dispute.

Police said between one and three expatriates had been abducted, but one suspected kidnapper had been arrested.

''A group of expatriates were kidnapped in Port Harcourt city.

They had mobile (armed) police escort, but the kidnappers got the mobile police out of the car and kidnapped the expatriates,'' an oil industry source said, asking not to be named because of his company's policy.

Rivers State Police Commissioner Samuel Agbetuyi said reports of the kidnapping were still sketchy. Between one and three expatriates were involved, but there were no reports of casualties, he said.

''One of those who did it has been arrested,'' he told Reuters by telephone.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), whose attacks against the world's eighth largest oil exporter have cut output by a quarter, told Reuters by email that they were not responsible.

''It has to do with a community problem,'' a police source said.

Yesterday a gunman on a motorcycle shot dead a US oil executive in the city in an apparently planned assassination.

Port Harcourt is the largest city in the Niger Delta, which pumps all of Nigeria's oil, and several multinationals have major offices there, including Royal Dutch Shell and Agip.

The city suffers from sporadic outbreaks of bloody gang violence and turf wars between rival ethnic groups, and there have been several deadly armed robberies recently.

The kidnapping and killing add to a rising trend of violent crime and communal unrest in the vast wetlands region, which pumps all of the OPEC member nation's oil.

MEND also denied any role in the killing of the executive, who worked for Texas oil services company Baker Hughes. A diplomat and oil industry source said it was more likely to be linked to a work-related dispute.

REUTERS OM VV1833

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