Police kill 14 kidnappers in Ogoni

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LAGOS (AFP)- Nigerian police stormed the hideout of the kidnappers of a Turkish national in oil-rich Rivers State and killed 14 of them in a shootout, police said Saturday.

“The hoodlums were shot dead during a gun battle with the security agents in their camp in Kaani community in Ogoni land,” state police spokesman Ben Ugwuegbulam told AFP of the incident on Friday.

He said members of the gang who abducted a Turkish construction worker last month had opened fire upon seeing the security agents in their camp.

“The security operatives returned with a superior firepower and in the process shot dead six of the kidnappers instantly, while eight others with gunshot wounds died on the way to the hospital,” the police spokesman said.

He added that two other suspects were assisting the police in their investigation.

Ugwuegbulam said the Turkish national had earlier been released unhurt by his captors after they collected ransom money.

“The security team recovered some arms and ammunition as well as cash in the camp,” he said.

“Six AK-47 rifles, 444 rounds of ammunition, 17 magazines… as well as the sum of 98,900 naira (620 dollars) were found in the camp,” he said.

The police spokesman could not however say if the recovered money was part of the ransom.

He said the gang was also notorious for carrying out a wave of robberies and attacks on security agents in the state in recent months.

“The police and other security agents will intensify efforts to rid the state of undesirable elements, especially those harassing residents and kidnapping prominent people, including foreigners,” he said.

Scores of foreign workers have been kidnapped for ransom in the Niger Delta, which is located partly in Rivers State — although a 2009 amnesty deal for oil militants had led to a sharp decline in unrest there in recent months.

But sporadic incidents continue despite the amnesty. Attacks have been blamed on criminal gangs seeking ransom or crude oil to sell on the black market as well as militants claiming to be fighting for a greater share of oil revenue for the local population.

The Niger Delta, with its massive oil and gas reserves, remains a deeply impoverished and badly polluted region.

It has also seen a wave of pirate attacks in recent months.

On October 15, gunmen attacked a ship off Nigeria operated by French firm Bourbon in the region and kidnapped seven foreign sailors.

The abducted sailors — six Russian and one Estonian — were released this week, the company said.

In a report earlier this year, the International Maritime Bureau said the Gulf of Guinea — where the Niger River discharges into the Atlantic through a massive delta — was emerging as a new piracy hub, with heavily armed gangs carrying out increasingly violent attacks in which crude theft was often the goal.

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