Nigerian militants claimed responsibility yesterday for kidnapping five South Koreans during an overnight raid on a Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co compound in southern Nigeria.
Six Nigerian army soldiers were also killed in a firefight during the raid, the Movement for the Emancipation for the Niger Delta said in a statement. MEND is the main militant group in Nigeria and has been responsible for a wave of attacks and hostage takings this year in Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta.
Assailants kidnapped five South Koreans and a Nigerian at an oil field in Nigeria on Wednesday, South Korea's Foreign Ministry said, two days after Nigeria's oil minister vowed in Seoul to stop hostage-taking in his country.
The abduction occurred between midnight and 1am local time in Port Harcourt, Nigeria's southern oil hub, the ministry said in a statement.
There were a total of 14 South Korean workers at the site, but the other nine escaped and took shelter at the main control room at the site, the ministry said.
Three of the kidnapped South Koreans are from Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co, and the other two are from the state-invested Korea Gas Corp, the ministry said. The other abductee was a local man, it said.
The government planned to do its utmost to bring the victims home unharmed, the ministry said.
The kidnappings come on the heels of a visit to South Korea this week by Edmund Daukoru, Nigeria's oil minister, to meet with officials in the government and oil industry to promote investment in Nigeria's oil sector.
Daukoru, who is also president of OPEC, told reporters Monday that Nigeria takes seriously a spate of kidnappings of foreign oil workers in the country and would do "everything possible" to stop them.
Nigeria's Embassy in Seoul said it "heard about" the kidnapping but have not been able to confirm it.
Daewoo official Huh Hyun said it appeared money was the motive for the kidnapping and that the company would negotiate with the captors.
The official declined to discuss further details.
On Friday, a group of unidentified militants who were demanding jobs and money kidnapped eight foreign oil workers from an oil platform off Nigeria's southeastern coast. They were released on Sunday.
Unrest has plagued Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta region for years, and in recent months armed militants have stepped up a campaign against the oil industry, blowing up oil pipelines and kidnapping foreign workers.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, on a visit to Africa's largest oil producer in March, signed an energy-cooperation agreement with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Nigeria's state oil company and the Korean National Oil Company also signed a deal to collaborate in the exploration of two oil fields in the southern oil-rich region.