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Nigeria Sets up Committee to Seek Release of Oil Hostages
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The Nigerian government has set up a committee to secure the release of nine foreign oil workers who were on Saturday seized by militants in the country's oil-rich south, Information Minister Frank Nweke said in a statement published on Sunday.

Nweke said the government condemned the abduction as it could "create the perception of insecurity and crisis in the Niger Delta and give further room for some persons to criminally enrich themselves from stealing the country's resources."

"President Olusegun Obasanjo wishes to assure all stakeholders in the region that everything possible is already being done to secure the speedy release of the hostages through dialogue," he said.

The minister said Obasanjo had held an emergency meeting with security chiefs, the state governors in the restive Niger Delta, and managing director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company, the subsidiary of Shell in Nigeria.

Shell said that the workers were abducted on Saturday morning from a pipe laying vessel, operated by its subcontractor, US oil services company Willbros, in southern Nigeria.

In a statement, Willbros identified the persons as three Americans, one Briton, two Egyptians, two Thais and one Filipino.

"It has not, at this time, been contacted by the group which has claimed responsibility. The company has a crisis management team working closely with the appropriate parties and authorities to seek an early and safe resolution of the situation," it said.

(Xinhua News Agency February 20, 2006)

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