Group Wants Ransom for Kidnapped Oil Workers in Nigeria

LAGOS Oct 6, 2006 (Dow Jones Newswires)

Members of an armed group that kidnapped foreign oil workers in Eket Southeast Nigeria this week have allegedly demanded a ransom of $10 million from the workers' employer, a source said Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said it would be forced to renew attacks on oil installations in response to reprisal attacks Thursday by the Nigerian Army on communities in Rivers State.

The group allegedly made the ransom demand Thursday in a telephone conversation with an official of Thomson and Grace, an oil service company working for Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, a unit of ExxonMobil (XOM), according to the source.

The Nigerian government has outlawed the payment of ransom for the release of the kidnapped oil workers.

MEND announced recently it would no longer take hostages in its attacks.

In an e-mail sent late Thursday, Jomo Gbomo, MEND's spokesman, alleged that the Nigerian Army "razed down the community of Elem-Tombia in Rivers State," in an attack that took place at about 1430 local time.

The reprisal attack, also reported on Channels, a local TV station, followed two separate encounters between the government troops and the militants, leading to the death of 23 soldiers, according to figures supplied by the militants.

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