Foreign Oil Workers Kidnapped off Oil Rig in Nigerian Delta

Eight foreign workers on an oil rig operating off Nigeria have been kidnapped, the rig's Norwegian owner and Nigerian police said Friday.

The workers, six British, one American and one Canadian, were aboard the drilling rig Bulford Dolphin when it was attacked during the night, Norway's Fred. Olsen Energy ASA said in a news release.

"No group has claimed responsibility and no demands have been made," Nigerian police spokesman Haz Iwendi said in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. "Security agencies are trailing them to secure the release of the hostages as soon as possible."

Iwendi said the attack occurred near the Dodo River in the country's oil-rich southern delta. Kidnappings by activist militants or those seeking money have been common in the region in recent years.

"We understand that the group (of kidnappers) has been in touch with the local companies about negotiations," said Sheena Wallace, of the Fred. Olsen subsidiary Dolphin Drilling Ltd. The Bulford Dolphin operates for the Nigerian oil company Peak Petroleum and Aberdeen, Scotland-based Dolphin Drilling operates the rig.

Wallace said by telephone from Aberdeen that the kidnappers struck the platform, which had 84 people aboard, at about 0400 GMT Friday. The rig was about 65 kilometers (40 miles) off the Nigerian coast.

She said drilling had temporarily been suspended, and that the families of all the kidnap victims, as well as other crew, had been contacted. She said she did not have the names or other details of the kidnapped crewmen.

Nigerian militants have blown up oil pipelines and kidnapped foreign oil workers to press their demands for local control of oil revenues by inhabitants of the oil-producing south, who feel cheated out of the wealth produced in their backyards. Other groups have also kidnapped oil workers to use as bargaining chips to prod oil companies to increase jobs or improve benefits. The kidnappings usually end peacefully.

Last month, an unidentified gunman riding a motorcycle shot and killed an American riding in a car to work at the offices of the U.S. drilling equipment maker Baker Hughes Inc. in the southern Nigerian oil industry hub of Port Harcourt.

Nigeria, which normally pumps 2.5 million barrels of crude a day, is Africa's largest producer and the fifth-largest source of imports to the United States. Unrest in the country has helped drive oil prices higher on international markets.


Associated Press Writer Doug Mellgren contributed to this report from Oslo, Norway.


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