Korean workers abducted after gun battle freed in Nigeria

The Niger delta is plagued by political violence, armed robbery and kidnapping for profit (Sergey Mayorov/Dreamstime)
Two South Korean engineers working for Daewoo Engineering & Construction have been released, nearly three weeks after they were abducted by unidentified gunmen in Nigeria, the foreign ministry in Seoul said yesterday.

The two, together with eight Filipino workers, were kidnapped just after midnight on 12 December. They were working at a power plant construction site near Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta.

According to the Sahara Reporters website, the incident occurred at around 9.30am when gunmen ambushed a convoy of expatriates being escorted by troops along the Ahoada–Obua road in Port Harcourt.

Daewoo officials in the delta said there was a 40-minute gun battle between the raiders and security guards, which left four guards and two drivers dead.

The ministry said it had worked closely with the authorities in Nigeria immediately after the kidnapping to secure the abducted men’s release. It added that the men were in good health, and had been moved to a safe area after a medical examination. It did not say whether a ransom had been paid.

There is no word yet on the fate of the Filipinos.

The Reuters news agency comments that there has been a wave of violence against the energy industry in the delta, where militancy is fuelled by poverty, lawlessness, and struggles for control of stolen oil.

There were around 800 cases of kidnapping for ransom in Nigeria in 2023. Foreign workers are targeted by criminal gangs, especially those working in remote mining or construction projects.

In 2019, Nigerian police rescued four Turkish construction workers who had been kidnapped in Kwara State, west central Nigeria. The workers were abducted by six armed men at a bar in a village of Gbale (see further reading).

In June last year, five Koreans working for Daewoo were freed 40 hours after they were abducted in the same area by heavily armed rebels demanding the release of their jailed leader, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari.

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