Tue, Aug 15, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Filipino workers released, but abductions continue


Three Filipino oil workers taken hostage in southern Nigeria were released early yesterday, hours after witnesses said a new kidnapping occurred at a nightclub as gun battles broke out throughout the country's oil hub of Port Harcourt.

A spate of abductions in Nigeria's oil-rich southeastern delta in the past week have prompted severe restrictions on movement of most expatriates. Militant attacks have cut its production by more than 20 percent since the beginning of the year, adding to volatility in global oil markets.

The Filipinos, held for 10 days, were handed over to the Filipino ambassador in Port Harcourt in the presence of reporters. They work for US oil contractor Michael Baker Corp of Pennsylvania.

A spokesman for the state governor did not say who had taken the men or if a ransom was paid.

At least 10 foreigners have been abducted in the delta within the past week. Groups usually demand greater share of the region's oil wealth, either through political changes or payment of ransoms.

News of the Filipinos' release was overshadowed by Sunday night's violence. Gunshots rang out through at least three neighborhoods and witnesses said armed men kidnapped foreigners from a nightclub.

George Ani, a driver, said he saw more than 10 people go into the Goodfellas nightclub and drag a group of foreigners away.

"They were shooting and everyone started screaming," Ani said. "They took some expatriates but I don't know how many. I lay on the floor of my car until it was finished."

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