Seven mine workers have been kidnapped in Nigeria, among them three Australians and one New Zealander with permanent Australian residency.
The ambush occurred as the group drove across a bridge outside the state capital of Calabar around 5:30 AM Wednesday. It's estimated 30 armed militants, in several vehicles, rushed the miners' moving car and abducted the workers after fatally shooting their driver.
The kidnappers reportedly escaped by boat, taking the hostages with them along the river below. Some local media outlets are reporting that two workers managed to escape the scene, one of them by hiding underneath the car until it was safe. No ransom demand has yet been received, nor have the kidnappers made contact with police.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed that the workers are contractors employed by Perth-based mining company Macmahon Holdings. "We don't know at this stage the identity of the kidnappers and families in Australia are notified of course," he said.
Macmahon Holdings is a mining and engineering company with a lucrative quarrying contract with the United Cement Company of Nigeria. The United Cement manufacturing plant is situated at Mfamosing, Calibar—close to where the abduction occurred.
The company has since halted trading of its shares, pending further information about "a security incident at an operation in Africa."
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said this morning that the Australian government is "working to confirm details of the reported kidnapping in Nigeria" and is "in close contact with the Nigerian government, which is taking the matter extremely seriously".
In 2014, the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in Nigeria by militant group Boko Haram sparked global outrage. However, it is unlikely that the Nigerian militant group was involved in this attack, given Calabar is in the country's south-east. Boko Haram operates in Nigeria's north-east.
"It is more likely to be a criminal gang that have taken these people to elicit some sort of ransom from the company," ABC Africa correspondent Martin Cuddihy reported today.
Cuddihy also noted that kidnapping is not an uncommon occurrence in Nigeria's south. "This is a very wealthy part of Nigeria, but given the fact that the oil price has dropped considerably in the last couple of years, these criminal gangs have taken to abducting more foreign nationals in an effort to raise some money," he said.
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