UPDATE 1-Gunmen kidnap six Hyundai Heavy workers in Nigeria

Mon Dec 17, 2012 4:39pm EST

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YENAGOA, Nigeria Dec 17 (Reuters) - Gunmen kidnapped four foreigners and two Nigerians working for South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries in southerly oil-producing Bayelsa state on Monday, the police said.

Kidnapping is rife in Africa's top oil producer, making millions of dollars a year for criminal gangs. It is common across the south, especially in the Niger Delta oil region.

"At about 15:30 (1430 GMT) today, some armed men went to a Hyundai location i n a forest by the Atlantic Ocean beach and kidnapped four expatriates and two Nigerians," Bayelsa police spokesman Fidelis Odunna told reporters.

"The police are going to beef up security around all companies that have expatriates," he said.

Odunna did not state the nationality of the expatriates. Most non-Nigerians working for Hyundai in Bayelsa are South Korean.

Gunmen abducted two Lebanese men working for Nigerian construction company Setraco in Delta state last week, and killed a soldier protecting them.

The 83-year-old mother of Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was kidnapped on Dec. 9 in Delta state but was freed five days later after a military search.

Kidnappings tend to surge in December, when the criminals need money for year-end festivities. (Reporting by Owolabi Tife; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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