August 15, 2006

US citizen may be among Nigeria hostages: embassy

By Tom Ashby

ABUJA (Reuters) - The United States embassy in Nigeria said
on Tuesday that it had received reports that an American
citizen was among oil workers kidnapped in the southern oil
city of Port Harcourt.

At least five foreign workers -- two Britons, a German, an
Irish and Polish -- were snatched by armed men from the
Goodfellas nightclub shortly before midnight on Sunday, but
authorities still do not have a full list of those abducted.

Diplomats said the American may have been abducted in a
separate incident in the same city, but no further details were
immediately available.

"We are receiving reports that one American citizen was
among the oil workers kidnapped. We are monitoring the
situation closely," an embassy spokesman said.

The British High Commission in Nigeria said two Britons
were among the hostages. Irish public broadcaster RTE reported
that Brian Fogarty, an Irish citizen, was also abducted, while
the German Foreign Ministry said one of its nationals was

"The signals say the kidnappers are hoodlums," said a
spokeswoman for Rivers State police.

It was the fifth kidnapping of oil workers in Africa's top
oil producer this month, and follows a wave of militant attacks
against the oil industry which have cut Nigerian production by
a quarter since February.

About ten foreign oil workers are still in captivity, after
five were set free in two separate releases on Monday.

Militancy is fueled by widespread feelings of injustice in
the Niger Delta region where most people live in poverty
despite the wealth being pumped from their ancestral lands.

Many abductions are motivated principally by ransom, but
some recent incidents have taken on a more political tone, with
demands reflecting a growing ethnic nationalism among the Ijaw
tribe, which is native to the Niger Delta.

Criminal gangs, sometimes involved in the large-scale theft
of crude oil from pipelines, also regularly indulge in
kidnapping and extortion, and it is often difficult to
distinguish between the two.