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[Published: Sunday August 03 2008]

Nigeria militants kidnap French expatriates

Abuja , 4 Aug-(ANA)- Two French expatriates havebeen kidnapped by Gunmen near Nigeria'soil industry hub of Port Harcourtin the restive Niger Delta, military and security sources say.

More than a dozen gunmen ambushed patrons at a local bar in Onne inRivers state and exchanged fire with navy personnel, resulting in at leastthree deaths, a security source said.

The French Foreign Ministry confirmed two of its citizens werekidnapped.

Lieutenant-Colonel Sagir Musa, army spokesman for Rivers state, said itwas not yet clear who the two French expatriates worked for.

Insecurity in Nigeria, the world's eighth-largest oil exporter, has cutcrude output by around a fifth since militants launched a campaign of sabotagein early 2006 to press for greater development in their neglected communities.

Criminal gangs have taken advantage of the breakdown in law and order,frequently kidnapping businessmen, local politicians and foreign workers forransom.

More than 200 foreigners have been seized in the Niger Delta, the heartof the country's oil sector, since early 2006. Almost all have been releasedunharmed.

Last month, two Germans working for Nigeria's largest constructionfirm, Julius Berger, were kidnapped, prompting the company to suspendoperations in the delta.(ANA)

FA/ANA/4 August 2008---

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