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Nigerian militants abduct Koreans in gas plant raid

Written by: Staff
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PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria, June 7 (Reuters) Armed militants kidnapped five Koreans in a bloody attack on a natural gas plant operated by Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria's southern delta today, authorities and security sources said.

They also killed 10 men from the Nigerian security forces.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) claimed responsibility and said the Koreans would be freed in exchange for a jailed militia leader who is on trial for treason and was denied bail by a Nigerian court yesterday.

The attack comes just three days after eight foreign oil workers were released by a different group of kidnappers, and is the latest sign of rising militancy across the oil heartland of Africa's top producer.

MEND, whose attacks have already forced the closure of a quarter of Nigerian oil output since February, had previously demanded the release of militia leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari as one of several conditions for ending the violence.

''The government of Nigeria may be interested more in a prisoner exchange rather than releasing the person whose release we have demanded,'' MEND said in an emailed statement.

The style today's attack was similar to MEND's raids in January and February, when dozens of militants armed with assault rifles, dynamite and rockets overpowered troops, bombed oil and gas facilities and abducted foreign workers.

''In the next few weeks our attacks will increase (in) frequency with the destruction of several facilities of crucial importance to the oil industry,'' MEND said, advising workers to leave the oil-producing wetlands region in southern Nigeria.

MEND, whose leadership is unknown, is pressing for more local power over the Niger Delta's oil resources and has said it aims to bring the OPEC nation's output to a complete halt.

Poverty, lawlessness, corruption and struggles for control of a lucrative oil smuggling business fuel unrest in the delta.

MORE REUTERS SHB BST2036

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