One of seven foreign oil workers taken hostage from an Italian oil ship off the coast of southern Nigeria was killed and another wounded during a rescue attempt that also left two kidnappers and a soldier dead, officials said.
Gunmen seized the seven hostages from a supply vessel belonging to a subsidiary of the Italian oil giant Eni SpA in the latest attack by militants on oil facilities in the energy-rich region.
Eni confirmed in a statement late on Wednesday that "during an attempt by the Nigerian Navy to free the seven hostages ... there was an exchange of fire during which one hostage was killed and the remaining six, including one wounded one, were freed and taken to a safe place."
Two of the kidnappers and one Nigerian soldier were killed during the shootout, government and private security officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The British Foreign Office has confirmed that a British hostage was killed in attempts to free the hostages.
The Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed the Italian hostage was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.
Eni had said the hostages were two Finns, an Italian, a Filipino, a Briton, a Pole and a Romanian. Finland's Foreign Ministry confirmed that two Finns were among those freed and they were unharmed. They were to return to Finland yesterday.
The kidnappers attacked the vessel about 50km off the coast of Nigeria's Rivers State, contractors said.
The kidnappings were the latest in a series of attacks on oil installations in the volatile Niger delta, where most of Nigeria's oil is produced.
Since the beginning of this year, militant groups have attacked oil pipelines and taken oil workers hostage in violence that has cut about 25 percent of the country's usual crude output of about 2.5 million barrels daily. Civilian protesters have also taken over oil facilities to protest lack of jobs and development in the regions.
Most oil workers kidnapped over the past year have been safely released. The captives are usually freed after a ransom is paid by the companies and the government, according to security analysts. However, in 2004 two foreign and five Nigerian subcontractors to Chevron died when their boat was ambushed in the creeks, and last August a Nigerian hostage was killed during a botched rescue attempt by the Nigerian navy.