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The Guardian: FCO travel warning after Nigeria kidnappings

Matt Weaver and agencies
Thursday October 5, 2006
Guardian Unlimited

The Foreign Office today issued a warning against travelling to parts of Nigeria, following the kidnapping of four British oil workers in the country.

The men were among up to seven foreigners abducted from a residential compound in the country’s southern Akwa Ibom state on Tuesday night.

The Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to the state, and said it is feared there may be more kidnappings in the Niger delta.

Potential visitors are also advised against all travel to the Bakassi peninsula and parts of the Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states, as well as all but essential travel to the rest of those three states.
A spokesman said officials “continue to believe that armed groups may be planning further attacks on oil and gas facilities in the Niger delta”.

One of the kidnapped British workers is Paul Smith, an engineer from Peterhead in Aberdeenshire.

Mr Smith, who is married with two children, has been working in Nigeria for about a year.

Today, his father, John, said: “The family are very concerned. We know that discussions are ongoing, but at this time there is no word about what is happening. It has come as a massive shock.”

The names of the other three Britons have yet to be released.

Nigeria’s police and armed forces have now cordoned off the compound.

Eighteen British nationals have been kidnapped this year in six separate incidents. Kidnappings generally end peacefully, with hostages returned unharmed.

Three of the British men worked for Aberdeen-based Sparrows Offshore.

A spokesman for the firm said: “Naturally we are concerned for the safety of our own colleagues and that of other companies’ employees who have been affected.

“We are liaising with the Foreign Office, local police and our advisers in Nigeria. “We are in constant contact with the families in the UK and will be keeping them informed of developments.”

Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, although recent attacks by armed groups have led to a drop of almost a quarter of the country’s usual output.

Militants have blown up oil pipelines in attempts to further their demands for local control of oil revenues by inhabitants of the oil-producing south.

Other groups have kidnapped oil workers to use as bargaining tools to put pressure on oil companies to create jobs or improve benefits.

In January, rebels seized Nigel Watson-Clark and three other foreign workers from an offshore oil platform. The former paratrooper had been about to return home after spending four weeks patrolling oilfields when he was captured.

He was held by an armed gang for 19 days before finally being released.

Less than three weeks later, security expert John Hudspith was one of nine oil workers seized in a raid on a boat contracted by international oil company Shell.

He was released unharmed more than five weeks later.

While kidnappings generally end peacefully, with hostages returned uninjured, it is not always the case.

In June, six Britons, including Philip Morris, were kidnapped on an oil rig off Nigeria’s south coast and released two days later after apparently being brutalised by their captors. and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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