UK Man Confirmed Dead in Nigerian Hostage Rescue

PORT HARCOURT, Nov 26, 2006 (AP)

One of seven foreign oil workers taken hostage Wednesday from an Italian oil ship off the coast of southern Nigeria was killed and another was wounded during a rescue attempt that also left two kidnappers and a soldier dead, officials said.

Gunmen seized the seven hostages overnight from a supply vessel belonging to a subsidiary of the Italian oil giant Eni SpA (E) off the coast of southern Nigeria in the latest attack by militants on oil facilities in the energy-rich region.

Eni confirmed in a statement late 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 weren't authorized to talk to the media.

The U.K. Foreign Office has confirmed that a U.K. hostage was killed in attempts to free the hostages.

"He was killed during the Nigerian rescue attempt," said a spokesman, speaking with customary anonymity. "We have informed next of kin and they have asked us not to give out any further details as they inform other relatives."

The Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed the Italian hostage was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.

Eni had said earlier 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 will return to Finland on Thursday.

The kidnappers attacked the vessel about 50 kilometers 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% 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.

Copyright (c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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