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Kidnappers Free 3 Oil Workers in Nigeria

May 12, 2006

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria (AP) _ Gunmen briefly kidnapped three foreign oil workers in southern Nigeria, a day after an American oil worker was killed in the same city, the hub of the oil industry in this key U.S. supplier.

The foreigners were released early Friday, a day after they were snatched from a bus as they headed to work in oil hub of Port Harcourt, said regional police commander Samuel Adetuyi.

The oil workers, including one Italian, work for a subsidiary of the Italian energy giant ENI SPA. The nationalities of the other two were not immediately known.

``They are well, they were not subjected to any violence,″ Eni spokesman Gianni Di Giovanni told private TV Sky Italia.

Di Giovanni said the kidnappings stemmed from a ``strictly commercial″ problem, possibly motivated by opposition to certain deals. He did not elaborate.

Di Giovanni said he could not comment on whether a ransom was paid for their release. ``The important thing is that our fellow citizen and his two colleagues are safe, sound and free,″ he said.

It was the second attack this week on foreigners in Port Harcourt, where many oil-services companies keep their main Nigerian operations.

An unidentified gunman riding a motorcycle Wednesday shot and killed an American riding in a car to work at the offices of the U.S. drilling equipment maker Baker Hughes Inc.

Crude oil futures jumped more than $1 a barrel Thursday as the news intensified worries about supply disruptions in Africa’s leading oil exporter, the fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil imports.

A militant movement whose attacks on oil installations have cut more than 20 percent of Nigeria’s 2.5 million barrel daily production said Tuesday it would target oil workers with fresh attacks.

But a spokesman for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said in an e-mail to The Associated Press Thursday that the group wasn’t responsible for either the slaying or the kidnappings.

The group has kidnapped American and other foreign oil workers and released them unharmed.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed that it had information that Thursday’s kidnapping stemmed from a ``community-related dispute″ between inhabitants of the Bukuma township and oil companies.


Associated Press Writer Alessandra Rizzo in Rome contributed to this report.

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