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Nigerian Gunmen Kidnap Employees of German Construction Firm

Nigerian gunmen Friday, July 11 kidnapped two expatriate employees of German-founded construction firm Julius Berger Nigeria in the Western African nation's oil-producing Niger Delta Region.

Nigerian police officers stand guard in an area were the military are battling with gunmen in Kano, northern Nigeria

The kidnappings are the latest in a long list of problems the Nigerian police deal with

Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa confirmed that the expatriate workers were abducted from a construction site around 19 kilometers from Port Harcourt, where the company is working on upgrading roads.

Their nationality was not known. However, the company is a subsidiary of Bilfinger Berger and employs many German nationals on its projects in Nigeria.

Local reports said that a soldier escorting the workers was shot dead by the gunmen, but the killing could not be officially confirmed.

Rivers State Commissioner of Police Bala Hassan, however, said that one of the kidnappers had fallen from the getaway car after a gun battle and that officers were searching for him.

None of the many militant organizations in the Niger Delta has claimed responsibility for the abduction.

The most high profile group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), said Thursday that it was calling off its two-week-long ceasefire.

It said the suspension of the ceasefire was in protest against Britain's offer to help quell attacks on oil installations in the region.

Militants in the impoverished Niger Delta regularly attack oil production facilities and abduct foreign workers as they press for a bigger say in oil exploitation in the area.

Attacks have cut production in Nigeria by almost a quarter since the beginning of the year, contributing to sky-rocketing global oil prices and allowing Angola to overtake Nigeria as Africa's top oil producer.

In spite of its oil wealth, the majority of Nigerians live on less than one dollar a day.

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