MEND denies Israeli’s abduction and offers help

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The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has said it is not behind Tuesday night’s abduction of an Israeli construction worker, Ehud Avni, in Nigeria’s oil city of Port Harcourt.

But the Nigerian oil region’s largest militant group has offered to assist in ‘locating and negotiating’ the release of the hostage, if its assistance is sought by the Israeli Ambassador in Nigeria.

MEND recently helped in rescuing and freeing two German construction workers who were abducted in Port Harcourt, even though it later complained that the workers’ company Julius Berger, Nigeria’s subsidiary of German firm Berger and Bilfinger, did not say ‘thank you’.

The group said the kidnapping of foreign construction workers, which it blamed on ”a conspiracy by a section of the country in collaboration with the military Joint Task Force” (deployed to help maintain peace in the region), was aimed at sabotaging development in the Niger Delta region and creating an atmosphere of insecurity.

Julius Berger suspended work on the construction of the main road transversing the oil region after the kidnapping of its workers.

The police said Avni, who works for Israeli construction company Gilmore, was kidnapped from his residence by unknown gunmen.

It said the Israeli’s driver had been arrested as part of the investigations launched into the abduction, and that no group had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, the latest in what has now become a routine in the violence-prone Niger Delta oil region.

Most of those kidnapped are usually released unharmed, some after the payment of ransom.

Federal and state governments have blamed the rising wave of kidnapping on criminal groups seeking to extort money from rich companies operating in the region. Panapress .

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