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Last Updated: Friday, 5 January 2007, 17:53 GMT
Chinese men abducted in Nigeria
Militants in the Niger Delta (file image)
Kidnappings by militants in Nigeria have been on the rise
Five Chinese telecommunications workers have been kidnapped by unidentified armed men in southern Nigeria.

Gunmen seized the men near Port Harcourt in the oil-rich Niger Delta, where many similar abductions have taken place in recent months.

The Chinese embassy in Abuja said it had appealed to the Nigerian authorities for help in securing the men's release.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the abductions.

The kidnapped men had been installing telephone lines in Rivers State, according to local officials.

'Money demand'

It is not clear what telecommunications firm the men worked for.

Local officials believe that the men will be held for ransom.

"The bottom line will probably be a demand for money," Rivers State police commissioner, Felix Ogbaudu, told Reuters news agency.

The Chinese embassy in Abuja said it was taking an "active role" in trying to free the men.

China has been strengthening ties with Nigeria, investing billions in oil and infrastructure projects.

Kidnappings of foreign oil workers by militant groups in the Niger Delta region have become increasingly common in the last 12 months.

However, in most cases hostages are released unharmed after a ransom has been paid.

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