Nigeria oil rig attacked

November 8, 2010 12:00 am

, Nigeria, Nov 8 – An oil rig was attacked off Nigeria early Monday and five crew members are believed to have been taken hostage, the company that oversees the rig, Afren, said in a statement.

"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," the statement said.

"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."

It added that a second "security breach" occurred at a support vessel, but did not provide details. The statement said "the vessel and rig are both under the control of the company."

The Okoro field is located some 12 kilometres (eight miles) off the coast off Nigeria\’s Akwa Ibom state. Afren is headquartered in Britain and works with a local partner, AMNI International.

Nigerian security officials could not immediately provide details on the attack, the latest to occur in the Niger Delta region, the heart of the country\’s oil industry.

In September, three French oil workers were kidnapped from their ship after an attack that led to a two-hour gun battle with authorities. A Thai national was also abducted.

Criminal gangs seeking ransom payments as well as militants claiming to be fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenue have abducted scores of foreigners and family members of wealthy Nigerians in recent years.

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.

Twin car bombings in the capital Abuja near independence day celebrations on October 1 killed at least 12 people and were claimed by the country\’s most prominent militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.

MEND, which claims to be fighting on behalf of local people in the deeply impoverished Niger Delta, has also been seen as an umbrella organisation for criminal gangs.

The group had never before struck in the capital, and rarely with such a high number of casualties. It had previously claimed responsibility for a large number of incidents in the Niger Delta, including attacks on pipelines and kidnappings.

Sabotage of oil facilities also occurs frequently in the region.

Late last month, a pipeline belonging to the Italian oil firm Eni was attacked.

President Goodluck Jonathan, who is running in early next year\’s elections, is from the Niger Delta and faces pressure to resolve the situation in the region.

Nigeria is one of the world\’s largest oil exporters, but the government has failed to provide adequate basic services, including sufficient electricity, with outages occurring daily.


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