By JON GAMBRELL
LAGOS, Nigeria — Gunmen attacked a ship Friday supplying an Exxon Mobil Corp. offshore oil rig near the coast of Nigeria, kidnapping a sailor and leaving another wounded, an official said.
The attack happened off the coast of Akwa Ibom state, the home of Exxon Mobil’s Nigerian subsidiary, local spokesman Nigel Cookey-Gam said. The gunmen boarded the vessel as it idled near an Exxon Mobil oil rig, attacking the crew, he said.
The gunmen sped off with one of the sailors onboard the boat, operated by a contractor to the oil company which runs goods out to the rig, the spokesman said. One sailor suffered injuries in the attack.
Cookey-Gam said the oil company had reported the attack to Nigerian authorities, though the firm had no further information about where the gunmen took the sailor.
The attack occurred off Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta, where foreign firms have pumped oil out of the country for more than 50 years. Despite the billions flowing into Nigeria’s government, many in the delta remain desperately poor, living in polluted waters without access to proper medical care, an education or work.
In 2006, militants started a wave of attacks targeting foreign oil companies, including bombing their pipelines, kidnapping their workers and fighting with security forces. That violence waned in 2009 with a government-sponsored amnesty program promising ex-fighters monthly payments and job training. However, few in the delta have seen the promised benefits.
The kidnapping Friday represents the first publicized kidnapping of a support worker in months. The main militant group in the region, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, claimed responsibility for kidnapping seven expatriate workers in November 2010 from offshore oil rigs operated by London-based Afren PLC and Exxon Mobil.
The region remains overrun by criminal gangs and awash in weaponry. On Friday, Rivers state police commissioner Suleiman Abba said officers discovered 12 bodies in the village of Uni Ikata. Abba said police were working to determine the cause of death and had no information about communal clashes or violence in the area.
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