Gunmen kidnap foreign oil workers in Nigeria

Unidentified gunmen stormed an offshore oil platform run Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria and kidnapped four foreign oil workers, while elsewhere a apparent sabotage caused a pipeline blew up, cutting off 106,000 barrels crude daily, company officials said Thursday. Gunmen in three boats seized the four oil workers from a support vessel attached to the oil platform on Wednesday afternoon, Shell spokesman Andy Corrigan said by telephone from London. A Bulgarian foreign ministry statement said the hostages were a Bulgarian, a Briton, a U.S. national and a man from Honduras. It said the Nigerian authorities had been contacted but there was no information yet about the kidnappers' demands. The British embassy in Nigeria said it believed one of its nationals was among the hostages. "We believe the four individuals include a British national," spokesman Graeme Bannatyne said.

In a separate incident, a major pipeline feeding Shell's Forcados oil export terminal ruptured overnight at Brass Creek in the troubled delta, forcing the company to stop production of 106,000 barrels of oil daily, Shell said in a statement. A Shell spokesman in Lagos said the pipeline exploded, though details were sketchy as to the cause. In December, a major Shell pipeline was blown up with dynamite by unknown attackers, forcing the company to shut down large volumes of crude oil.

"We suspect vandalization but an investigating team has arrived at the place to ascertain the exact cause, the volume of oil spilled and effect on the environment," said a Shell spokesman in Lagos, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to reporters. The pipeline rupture at Brass Creek shut down four oil pumping facilities in the west of the volatile Niger Delta, including Tunu, Ogbotobo, Benisede and Opukushi. Together they account for 106,000 barrels of crude daily.

Shell officials in Nigeria said the foreign oil workers were kidnapped from an anchored supply vessel at Shell's EA oil platform in shallow waters off the southern oil-rich Niger Delta and taken to an unknown location. Corrigan said it was unclear whether the hostages were working for Shell or one of its contractors. He declined giving further details, including the nationalities of those abducted, "for safety and security reasons", reports the AP. N.U.

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