Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Nigerian state arrests 400 over kidnappings


PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria (Reuters) - Authorities in Nigeria's southern state of Akwa Ibom said on Monday they had arrested more than 400 people as part of a clampdown on rampant kidnappings for ransom in the region.

Abductions of foreign oil workers and prominent Nigerians have been common for years in and around Port Harcourt, the hub of the country's Niger Delta oil heartland, but have recently spread to the region's fringes, including Akwa Ibom.

President Goodluck Jonathan has made reducing crime in the vast wetlands region a top priority.

"The command has arrested over 400 suspects in connection with kidnapping in the state. And in the last few weeks the command has been able to reduce kidnapping," Akwa Ibom deputy police commissioner Yuguda Abdullahi said.

Most of the recent abductions have been of wealthy Nigerians and have taken place on land. But there have also been attacks on foreigners working off the Akwa Ibom coast.

Militants attacked a rig operated by oil exploration firm Afren off Akwa Ibom a week ago, kidnapping two Americans, two Frenchmen, two Indonesians and a Canadian.

Late on Sunday, gunmen attacked an oil rig operated by the local unit of U.S. energy giant Exxon Mobil off the coast of Akwa Ibom.

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