YENAGOA, Nigeria Jan 27 Pirates attacked a
tugboat near the Brass River crude oil export terminal in
Nigeria, kidnapping the ship's captain and an engineer, two
security sources said. The Italian oil company Eni operates the
Attacks by armed gangs are common along the winding creeks
of the Niger Delta, home to Africa's biggest oil industry. They
make millions of dollars out of ransoms.
"The tugboat was coming from Port Harcourt in Rivers State
to Brass to load petroleum at the terminal. Gunmen who were
about seven in number ... boarded it", a Nigerian state security
source said of Saturday's attack.
Both sources, who did not know the nationalities of the
hostages, said they thought the boat was working for Eni, but a
spokesman at the Italian oil major said the boat belonged to a
contractor and that no Eni workers were involved.
A statement from an email address claiming to be the
Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND),
formerly Nigeria's main militant threat and responsible for
years of attacks on the oil industry until a 2009 amnesty, said
it had launched the attack. It came from a Jomo Gbomo, a
pseudonym and email account MEND has used in the past.
Yet security officials believe MEND to be largely defunct,
with most of its senior leaders either paid off or in jail, so
its continued statements are most likely a hoax.
(Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Larry King)