Gunmen kill 2 sailors

2012-08-05 10:38

Lagos - Gunmen attacked a barge belonging to an oil services company off the coast of Nigeria on Saturday, killing two Nigerian sailors and kidnapping four foreigners, the navy said.

The gunmen stormed a vessel in the Gulf of Guinea that belongs to the Sea Trucks Group, company spokesperson Corrie van Kessel told AFP, who confirmed that four of the firm's employees were taken in the raid.

"At this time Sea Trucks Group is making every effort to ascertain the whereabouts of its personnel," she told AFP.

Nigeria's navy spokesperson Commodore Kabir Aliyu said during the attack "four expatriates are reported to have been kidnapped from the vessel; two sailors were killed."

He said those kidnapped were from Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia and Thailand. The attack took place at roughly 01:00 on Saturday, 35 nautical miles off Nigeria's oil rich coastal area in the Gulf of Guinea, the navy and the company said.

Rise in pirate attacks

The region has seen a rise in the number of reported pirate attacks this year.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in a report released last month that there had been 32 piracy incidents recorded off the coasts of Benin, Nigeria and Togo in the first half of 2012, up from the 25 attacks in 2011.

An IMB official told AFP that armed assaults on vessels in the area have been under-reported for several years. Many of the raids have involved "high levels of violence," the report further said.

Aliyu told AFP that six naval personnel were stationed on board the Sea Trucks Group vessel following a request from the company. Besides the two seamen killed, two others were also injured, he said.

Van Kessel explained that Sea Trucks Group is heavily involved in the oil and gas sector in the Delta, but declined to comment on the specific activities of the fired-on ship.

She further said that two of the company's vessels came under attack, although the navy insisted only one ship was involved.

Sea Trucks Group, which also operates in Australia and East Asia, was founded as a Nigerian firm in 1977, offering support vessels to oil majors operating in the Delta, according to its website.

The company has a "corporate support office" in the Netherlands.