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Oil workers kidnapped in Nigeria

Gunmen in speedboats have kidnapped 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 rig operated by London-based Afren PLC and a nearby support ship comes as sporadic attacks continue in a region that was supposed to have been calmed by a government-sponsored amnesty programme.

In a statement, Afren said the attack occurred at a new rig operating at the Okoro oil field, about eight 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 for medical treatment.

"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."

It is unknown if the employees were local people or foreigners working with Afren, which explores eight oil plays in Nigeria with local partner companies.

Nigerian navy vessels often offer security for such offshore rigs, though it was unclear whether they had vessels in the area. A naval spokesman said that he had no information about the attack.

Afren operates in the Okoro field with the private Nigerian firm Amni International. In financial reports, Afren has said the field produces about 18,800 barrels of oil a day, with an estimated reserve of 24.8 million barrels.

Share in Afren had dropped by 3.66% in early trading on the London Stock Exchange.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. The region's main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, has said it would carry out new attacks after claiming responsibility for an October 1 car bombing in the capital Abuja that killed at least 12 people.

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