China protests over abductions in Nigeria

LAGOS - Leaders of a community in southern Nigeria - where five Chinese telecommunications workers were abducted - have promised to help in efforts to secure their release, a top police official said yesterday.

LAGOS - Leaders of a community in southern Nigeria - where five Chinese telecommunications workers were abducted - have promised to help in efforts to secure their release, a top police official said yesterday.

The Chinese nationals were abducted by unidentified armed men early on Friday in the oil-rich Rivers State in the Niger Delta.

The Chinese government has formally protested to the authorities in Abuja about the kidnapping.

Rivers State police boss, Felix Ogbaudu, said that leaders and prominent citizens of the Emohua community, where the kidnapping took place, have offered to assist in the search and efforts to release the hostages as quickly as possible.

"There has been no information of the whereabouts of the hostages, but the chairman of the local government area, Emeka Woke, has promised to wade into the matter since it is his area," Ogbaudu said.

"We are hoping that we will reach them [hostages] shortly," he said.

Woke said that there was progress in resolving the problem, and that all necessary contacts were being made to secure the release of the Chinese hostages.

Emmanuel Okah, the Rivers State government spokesman, said on Saturday: "We hope that soon the government will be able to establish contact with the abductors with a view to effecting the release of the five Chinese workers."

A Chinese embassy spokesman, who identified himself as Wu, said a team of senior officials from the embassy was in Rivers State as part of efforts to rescue the hostages.

"The will work with the police. We depend on them and the Nigerian government to achieve this," he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in Beijing: "China's leaders attach the highest importance to this."

"President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have ordered the foreign ministry and China's embassy in Nigeria to find a way to ensure the lives and safety of the abductees and to give all their efforts to save them."

No group or individual has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, the first such incident known this year. - Sapa-AFP

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