Nigeria: Rebels resume oil attacks?

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Two Americans, two French, two Indonesians and one Canadian have been taken hostage by militiamen in Nigeria after an attack on an oil company that operates the offshore rig in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

“A security breach has occurred on the High Island VII jackup rig, which had recently arrived on location, preparing to commence infill drilling at the Okoro field.

“Two crew members are stable after receiving wounds to the leg, and have been evacuated by helicopter to a shore-based clinic. It is believed that five crew members have been taken hostage” Afren, the oil company which operates the offshore rig revealed.

It was later revealed by Afren security sources that the hostages included two Americans, two French, two Indonesians and one Canadian.

The militiamen also attacked a support ship in the Okoro field off the coast of Nigeria’s Akwa Ibom state the gunmen reportedly seized two Indonesians and also shot and injured two other people.

But Afren told reporters that the rigs in the Okoro field were now under its control and the wounded staffs have been flown by helicopter for medical treatment.

Nonetheless, the United States and France have immediately called for the prompt release of all the hostages.

“We’re, of course, concerned about their safety and hope for their immediate release,” U.S State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.

Also, French foreign ministry spokesman confirmed it had received information indicating that two of its nationals had been taken hostage.

“We have indications concerning the abduction… and the possible presence of two French nationals among the people abducted,” said ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. “We are looking to confirm these indications.”

According to reports, the hostages were taken from Afren in a pre-dawn attack. Afren is headquartered in Britain and works with a local partner, AMNI International, while the rig is owned by Transocean.

As often, MEND, which claims to be fighting on behalf of local people in the deeply impoverished Niger Delta, has been suspected by some analysts.

MEND is also seen as an umbrella organization for criminal gangs. The group has previously claimed responsibility for a large number of incidents in the Niger Delta, including attacks on pipelines and kidnappings.

MEND is also accused of carrying out twin car-bombings in the capital, Abuja as Nigeria was celebrating 50 years of independence on 1 October.

An amnesty deal offered to militants last year greatly reduced unrest in the Niger Delta but several incidents have occurred in recent months ahead of elections set to take place early next year.

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