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Old 21st Oct 2006, 00:27
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Time Out

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Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Australia
Posts: 316
FEARS were last night growing for the safety of four Scottish oil workers kidnapped in Nigeria, amid reports one has died.

George McLean, 42, of Elgin, Paul Smith, of Peterhead, Sandy Cruden and Graeme Buchan of Inverurie in Aberdeenshire were taken hostage by members of the Niger Delta Frontier Force (NDFF) two weeks ago.

No further details have been released, but a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said it was "greatly concerned" by the reports.

The government has been working with Nigerian officials since the four men who were working for the United States oil company Exxon Mobil were abducted in the southern state of Akwa Ibom. It is believed the kidnappers have demanded 21 million for the release of the men, but diplomatic sources refused to give in to demands.

"We are getting reports that one of the hostages has been killed," the FCO spokeswoman said. "It may be some time before we're able to confirm one way or the other. We're greatly concerned with these reports and are in close touch with the Nigerian authorities, the men's families and their employers.

"Everything is being done that can be done to try to secure the safe release of the hostages. Full consular support is being provided to the families."

The British oil workers, three of whom are employees of the Aberdeen-based contractor Sparrows Offshore, were abducted together with a Romanian, a Malaysian and an Indonesian - all working for the US oil giant. Terry McNeill, speaking for Sparrows Offshore, said: "We have been working very closely with the UK Foreign Office and with the Nigerian authorities to secure an early release for the men and that process is continuing.

"In parallel, we are keeping in close contact with their families here at home. We're trying to support them as best we can. I can confirm that three of the hostages are employees of this company.

"Everything that can be done is being done to get these men safe home soon. It is dangerous to speculate at this point."

The NDFF gang shot dead two security guards when they stormed the bar in the Exxon Mobil contractor's compound.

Last night, the parents of Mr Smith, who had been working in Nigeria for about a year, refused to make any comments.

The kidnappings follow months of horrific violence in the Niger Delta area. Shell has already shut down a 9,000 barrels-a-day oil platform amid ferocious fighting.

Eighteen British nationals have been kidnapped this year in six, separate incidents. Kidnappings generally end peacefully, with hostages returned unharmed.

Britain's foreign ministry has advised against all but essential travel to the Nigerian province of Akwa Ibom after the kidnapping of the four British oil workers.

Let us pray that the report is not right, and that they are still all released unharmed.
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