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Page last updated at 19:04 GMT, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Gunmen kidnap Nigerian novelist

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Renowned Nigerian novelist Elechi Amadi has been kidnapped by unknown gunmen in the Niger Delta region, say officials.

Three gunmen took the writer away from his village home about 15km (nine miles) east of the oil hub of Port Harcourt on Monday evening.

It is the latest high-profile abduction of a prominent figure in the region by armed men.

The novelist has published three novels including The Concubine, which was made into a film.

His grand-daughter - who saw the kidnap at his home in Aluu in the Ikwere area of Rivers State - reportedly said no family member had been harmed.

No reason has been given for the abduction, although some family members fear it is linked to his chairmanship of the state scholarship board, says the BBC's Fidelis Mbah in Lagos.

Some in the state are said to be uncomfortable with Mr Amadi's anti-corruption position in dispensing scholarships to indigenous students, our correspondent adds.

'Debased militancy'

Nigerian security force spokesman Lt Col Sagir Musa told the BBC every effort was being made to ensure the release of the novelist.

Mr Amadi has published three novels including The Great Ponds, The Slave and The Concubine, - the last of which became one of the classics of African literature.

The 74-year-old achieved international fame during the 1960s and 1970s for his literary depictions of rural village life, customs and beliefs in an Africa before contact with the West.

In October last year Mr Amadi used an interview with Lagos-based newspaper Vanguard to condemn militant violence in the Niger Delta.

"Situations where you have a mob ready to pillage and kill, [and] kidnap, then that is debased militancy," he was quoted as saying.

Kidnapping is not new in the Niger Delta - a number of prominent people and family members of public office holders have been abducted in recent months and released after ransoms are paid.

Militants in the Niger Delta say they are fighting for a bigger share of the country's oil wealth, but the government says many attacks are in fact carried out by criminal gangs looking to extort money.

Violence in the area, Nigeria's main oil-producing region, has cut the country's crude exports by more than one-fifth since 2006.

The nation has Africa's largest hydrocarbon reserves, with more than 30bn barrels of oil and 187 trillion cubic feet of gas. It is the fifth-biggest source of US oil imports.



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