Four South Koreans and a Nigerian working for a Korean company in Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta have been abducted, Nigerian police said Tuesday, highlighting the high number of kidnappings in Africa's most populous nation.
The attack occurred at about 3 p.m. Monday in the Brass area of Bayelsa state, said police spokesman Fidelis Odunna.
Gunmen ambushed the men who work for Korea-based Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. at a construction site, said South Korean Foreign Ministry official Cho Tai-ying. He said the victims were preparing for the construction of factories.
Spokesman Odunna said six people were initially taken from the site, but a Nigerian was freed just over an hour after the attack, leaving five colleagues in captivity. Police suspect he was set free because he is from the area where the kidnapping occurred. They say they have not received a ransom request and are investigating the attack.
"We want to ensure the safety of expatriates in Bayelsa state," said Odunna, adding that there was no hired security at the site where the victims had been working.
The kidnapping comes on the heels of the Dec. 9 abduction of Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala's mother in nearby Delta State. Kamene Okonjo, 83, was freed five days later and authorities declined to say if a ransom was paid.
Kidnappings for ransoms are frequent in Nigeria's oil-rich delta. Experts say kidnappers who once targeted mainly expatriate oil workers have shifted their focus to wealthy Nigerian families in recent years.
However, a lack of trust in the ability of security forces to free the captives mean that many cases go unreported.
"Even as we thank God, we cannot forget so many Nigerians who have gone through the same terrible experience either as victims or families or friends of victims. Words are not enough to describe the sheer horror of the experience," said minister Okonjo-Iweala at a press conference Monday. "The best way to honor the victims and families is to ensure that there is greater focus on kidnapping and progress in combatting it."