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Eight Expats Abducted From Nigeria Oil Rig


LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) -- Eight foreign oil workers including one Canadian, six Britons and a U.S. citizen have been kidnapped in an attack on an offshore oil rig in Nigeria, a company spokesman said.

A spokesman for Norwegian holding company Fred Olsen, which oversees platform operator Dolphin Drilling, told CNN the workers were abducted at 5 a.m. local Friday from the Bulford Dolphin rig, 40 miles (64 kilometers) off the coast of the west African country.

CNN journalist Christian Purefoy, speaking from Lagos, said between 20 and 40 men were involved in the incident, the latest trouble to hit the Niger Delta, where militant rebels have staged regular attacks to disrupt the resource-rich country's oil operations.

The kidnappings are likely to cause embarrassment to Nigerian authorities and particularly the navy, which was due to celebrate its 50th anniversary with an international fleet review by President Olusegun Obasanjo in Lagos later on Friday, the Reuters news agency reported.

"The timing of the attack comes as things in the Delta seem to be getting worse," Purefoy said.

"No one has owned up to the attack, but it does show increasing lawlessness in the area."

There was no immediate indication of any link to a campaign of attacks and abductions by the militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which has cut Nigeria's oil exports by a quarter.

MEND has usually claimed its attacks within minutes by sending emails to media, but there was no word from the group on Friday and they did not immediately respond to messages, Reuters said.

MEND's campaign of attacks and kidnappings in January and February forced oil companies to shut down a quarter of OPEC member Nigeria's 2.4 million barrels per day production of crude.

The attacks contributed to several spikes in world oil prices. Nigeria is the world's eighth-biggest exporter of oil and the fifth largest supplier to the United States, where its sweet, easy-to-refine crude is highly prized.