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3 Indian workers kidnapped in Nigeria

May 19, 2007 03:01 PM IST India India

New Delhi: Suspected militants armed with dynamite and machine guns kidnapped three Indian petrochemical workers from their residence in Nigeria's oil capital Port Harcourt on Saturday, the army said.

The gunmen originally seized 10 workers, all employed by Indonesia's Indorama, but soldiers engaged them in a gunfight and rescued seven, a spokesman for the army in the region said. A Nigerian driver was killed in the crossfire.

"The militants invaded a block of flats occupied by Indorama with dynamite and heavy machine guns and took 10 workers. The joint task force responded to a distress call and rescued seven. They escaped with three," said spokesman Sagir Musa, adding that troops were still pursuing the abductors.

Violence has surged in the world's eighth largest oil exporter since February 2006, shutting down a third of its oil production.

The latest abduction takes to 15 the number of foreign workers being held in the Niger Delta, a vast wetlands region, which is home to all the country's oil reserves.

About 100 expatriates have been kidnapped so far this year, but most were released after their employers paid ransoms.

Indorama is majority owner of the Eleme petrochemical plant near Port Harcourt, which was privatised in December 2005.

Violence is fuelled by widespread resentment against an industry which has extracted billions of dollars from the delta but left most people in poverty with little access to power, roads, schools and doctors.

With inputs from reuters