By JON GAMBRELL
Gunmen stormed a ship supplying Exxon Mobil's offshore oil operations near Nigeria and kidnapped a contract employee, the firm's local subsidiary said Tuesday, only days after a similar attack saw another worker abducted.
The attack occurred early Monday morning off the coast of Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta near Akwa Ibom state, where Exxon Mobil tankers line beaches and its offshore oil rigs can be seen along the horizon. The gunmen attacked the vessel near either an Exxon Mobil oil rig or an offshore platform, though the company declined to give specific details about the attack.
The gunmen seized a contract worker aboard the vessel, Exxon Mobil said without giving his name or nationality. The company said it alerted Nigerian authorities about the attack.
"We do not know the identity of the attackers, nor reason for their action," the company said in a statement issued Tuesday.
This is the second attack to recently target Exxon Mobil supply ships. On Sept. 30, gunmen stormed another supply vessel near an Exxon Mobil offshore operation, kidnapping a contractor and leaving another person wounded. That abducted contractor remains missing, the company said Tuesday.
Foreign firms have pumped oil out of the country's southern Niger Delta for more than 50 years, with its easily refined crude one of the U.S.' top sources for gasoline. Despite the billions flowing into Nigeria's government, many in the delta remain desperately poor, living in polluted waters without access to proper medical care, education or work.
Militants in the delta's winding creeks started a wave of attacks in 2006 targeting foreign oil companies, including bombing their pipelines, kidnapping their workers and fighting with security forces. That violence waned in 2009 with a government-sponsored amnesty program promising ex-fighters monthly payments and job training. However, few in the delta have seen the promised benefits, stirring new discontent in a region awash in weaponry.
Exxon Mobil, based in Irving, Texas, runs the majority of its Niger Delta operations out of Akwa Ibom state. It pumped out more than 165 million barrels of oil in its partnership with the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. last year alone, according to government statistics.
Jon Gambrell can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.
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