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Agence France-Presse: 3 Filipinos abducted in Nigeria — officials

Oil prices climb after kidnappings

(2ND UPDATE) THREE Filipino oil and gas workers were abducted in southern Nigeria Friday, triggering an upward march in world oil prices, officials said.

“The men were abducted at Bonny Island in Rivers State, near the Nigeria LNG (gas) plant. They are our contractors and employees of Baker Overseas Technology Services,” NLNG spokesman Igwebuike Mbanefo told Agence France-Presse.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) confirmed to the abduction of the overseas Filipino workers.

But POEA deputy administrator Ramon Tionloc said he could give no details as what he had was still a “sketchy initial report.”

Mbanefo said the whereabouts of the hostages were unknown, but that the firm was making necessary contacts to secure their release.

He said the identities of the captors were also not known as no group has claimed responsibility for the abduction, the latest to rock Africa’s biggest oil producer in recent months.

Agence France-Presse earlier quoted an unnamed oil company official as saying they “learnt that three expatriate oil workers from the Philippines were taken hostage this morning (Friday) around Port Harcourt by unknown armed men.”

The police could not immediately confirm the incident, coming a day after a German oil worker was abducted.

“We are trying to verify the incident,” Rivers State police spokeswoman Barasua Ireju said.

Port Harcourt is at the heart of the oil-rich but restive Niger Delta region where several oil firms have their operational bases.

The multi-billion-dollar NLNG which is co-owned by the state-run oil operator NNPC, Anglo-Dutch group Royal Dutch/Shell, Italy’s Agip and France’s Totalfina Elf, started operations in October 1999 at Bonny in southern Nigeria, producing 5.9 million tonnes of LNG per year.

The LNG taps Nigeria’s massive gas reserves and aims to reduce gas-flaring associated with the country’s major oil industry. It has buyers in Europe and America.

This is the third time Filipinos have been abducted in Nigeria this year.

In mid-February, militants seized a Filipino and eight other oil workers of different nationalities, freeing them after 11 days.

In late June, two Filipino oil workers were also kidnapped and freed after almost a week in captivity.

World oil prices resumed an upwards march Friday as it was revealed that the three Filipinos had been abducted, traders said.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in September, rose by 22 cents to 75.68 dollars per barrel in electronic deals before the official opening of the US market.

In London, Brent North Sea crude for September delivery gained 45 cents to 77.01 dollars per barrel in electronic trading.

No group has claimed responsibility for the latest kidnappings, which come after a series of hostage-takings and that have rocked Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, in recent months.

Since January, attacks on oil facilities and personnel by separatist militants and communities have risen in the restive region, cutting oil exports by one quarter from Nigeria which is the world’s sixth-biggest oil exporter.

Earlier Friday, oil prices fell on easing concerns over the threat of hurricanes hitting the US Gulf Coast and hopes of an agreement to stop the conflict in Lebanon, dealers said.

Prices were also under pressure from indications suggesting economic growth in the United States, the world’s biggest energy user, would slow, they added.

A report from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said the US economy’s pivotal services sector weakened in July as the ISM index slipped to 54.8 percent from 57.0 percent in June. Services make up the lion’s share of activity in the world’s biggest economy.

That was less than Wall Street’s consensus target of 56.5 percent.

“The data showed faster than expected decline in the outlook for expansion,” said Dariusz Kowalczyk, an investment strategist with CFC Seymour Securities in Hong Kong.

“That is why commodities including energy were beaten today,” he said.

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