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Five kidnapped in Nigeria attack

Gunmen in speedboats have kidnapped at least five workers and wounded two others in an attack at an oil rig operating off the coast of Nigeria's troubled southern delta.

The attack on the newly installed rig operated by London-based Afren PLC and a nearby support ship came as sporadic attacks by militants upset over pollution and endemic poverty continued in a region supposedly calmed by a government-sponsored amnesty programme.

But confusion remained over how many people the gunmen kidnapped, with a US State Department spokesman saying as many as seven were taken during the attack.

The nationalities of the employees taken hostage were unclear.

French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said his nation had "indications" about "the possible presence of two French citizens among the people captured" - though he offered no official confirmation.

US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters that seven people were kidnapped - two of them US citizens.

"We, of course, (are) concerned about their safety and hope for their immediate return," Mr Crowley said. "We are working with Nigerian authorities... to pursue their prompt release."

In a statement, Afren said the attack occurred at a new rig doing survey work at the Okoro oil field, which sits about seven miles off the coast of Nigeria's Akwa Ibom state. The company said the two workers suffered "wounds to the leg" in the attack and have been flown out by helicopter to receive medical treatment. It was unclear if they escaped or were simply left behind by the kidnappers.

"We are working with the relevant authorities, and the vessel and rig are both under the control of the company," Afren said. "Drilling operations on the rig are temporarily suspended. An update will be provided in due course."

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