LAGOS, Nigeria - Gunmen seized two foreign workers Monday in Nigeria's southern oil-producing region, officials said, the latest kidnappings in an area where nearly 70 foreigners have been taken since the beginning of the year.
The attackers snatched the men from their work compound in southern Bayelsa state, said Godknows Igali, a government negotiator in the region.
A colleague of the two construction workers said they were Lebanese.
The pair were taken after a prolonged gunbattle, but there were no casualties reported, said the colleague, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of company restrictions on dealings with the media.
On Saturday, gunmen kidnapped a British oil worker from an offshore oil rig in Nigeria's oil-rich but impoverished Niger River delta region. A Dutch construction worker and two Chinese also remain in captivity.
Some of the kidnappers make political demands, including the release of an ex-governor on trial for corruption and a former militant leader charged with treason. Other gangs demand large cash payments. Most kidnapped foreigners are released unharmed.
Many of the groups enjoy protection from local politicians who are suspected of using them as hired labor to help rig elections scheduled for next month. Though Nigeria's oil wealth generates tens of billions of dollars every year, the majority of Nigerians remain mired in poverty. Throughout the delta region, poor villagers without access to clean water or electricity live side by side with multimillion-dollar oil installations. Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, is also rated one of the most corrupt countries in the world by Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International. AP-CS-04-02-07 2013EDT
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