Gunmen Kidnap Chinese Workers in Southern Nigeria

Gunmen kidnapped five Chinese workers fixing overhead telephone lines in southern Nigeria on Friday, the latest abductions of foreigners in the restive, oil-rich region, officials said.

A sixth worker escaped the gunmen, who wore military fatigues and rode in a minibus, said Alex Nwiyor, a community leader who saw the attack outside the main southern oil hub of Port Harcourt.

Irejua Barasua, a police spokeswoman in southern Rivers State, confirmed the details, saying the Chinese worked for a telecommunications firm fixing phone lines.

The Chinese Embassy could not immediately be reached for comment.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in the southern Niger Delta region.

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A main militant group in the region, which is holding four foreign oil workers hostage, said it was not responsible for the seizure of the Chinese telecommunications workers.

The kidnapping appeared unrelated to recent attacks on the oil industry by militants seeking a share of oil revenues and the release of two of their leaders, held on corruption or treason charges.

The government considers the militants criminals who use politics as a cover. Some 80 foreign oil workers were kidnapped last year amid attacks that pared a quarter of Nigeria's daily crude production.

Most of the captives were released unharmed after a ransom is paid. One Briton, however, died in a gunbattle between his captors and the Nigerian military.