Nigeria: Whereabouts of kidnapped Italians unsettle security agencies

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The whereabouts of the four Italians abducted by suspected pirates in the Niger Delta have unsettled security agencies including the Joint Task Force, codenamed Operation Pulo Shield.

Our correspondent gathered that security operatives were still trying to locate the expatriates 15 days after gunmen whisked them away.

The bandits had on December 23 attacked a vessel, MV Venunto along Pennington Rivers, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, and abducted the victims.

The Chief Security Officer of Agip, an Italian oil company, identified as Luca Pescarmona, was said to have called the Director of the State Security Service in the state, expressing concern over the abduction of the workers.

He was said to have complained that the failure of the Nigerian security agencies to locate and free the kidnapped oil workers had become a source of worry to the Government of Italy.

He said Italian tabloids and other news media were awash with the report that the Italians were in captivity in Nigeria.

Also, a security source told our correspondent that the Italian media were unhappy that their citizens had become endangered species, especially with the rising incidence of kidnapping in Nigeria.

The source, who pleaded anonymity, said other expatriates were surprised that Nigeria lacked the capacity to stem sea piracy.

He told our correspondent that the activities of pirates in Nigeria in 2012 were higher than Somalia.

He said, “Nigeria has gradually overtaken Somalia in pirate activities according to a new security report. Nigerian waters witnessed more pirate attacks in 2012 than Somalia.”

He, however, said security agencies were making efforts to free the Italians, adding that the victims were suspected to have been held by their assailants at a fishing camp in Frokpa in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area.

He said the victims were suspected to be held in two separate camps in the creeks of the council.

He added, “The operatives of the JTF are searching the creeks in the area to know whether they can locate the camps where the expatriates are detained. It is worrisome that camps still exist in the creeks of the Niger Delta despite the amnesty granted the ex-militants.

“But the oil companies are always afraid of allowing Nigerian security agencies to intervene in such matters. This is to avoid a repeat of what happened in Sokoto State where a rescue operation led to the killing of expatriates.”

When contacted, the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Kingsley Omire, said the police had intensified efforts to free the victims.

He said, “We are working round the clock and by the grace of God we will secure their release very soon.”

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