Gunmen attacked a ship carrying diesel fuel across Nigeria's restive southern region on Wednesday, kidnapping a foreign sailor and inflicting heavy damage on the vessel, officials said.
Heavily armed assailants riding in four speedboats hit the "MT Meredith" around dawn as it transported 4,000 metric tons (4,410 U.S. Tons) of diesel on behalf of one of Nigeria's biggest locally owned oil- and gas-services company, a private security official said.
The official said the unidentified gunmen inflicted "massive" damage on the tanker's engine and superstructure. A Romanian sailor was kidnapped during the attack on the vessel, which was making its way from the commercial center of Lagos to the main oil-region hub of Port Harcourt.
The security official spoke on condition of anonymity due to company prohibitions on dealings with the media. No further details were released. Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, a spokesman for the military unit charged with calming the region, confirmed the attack. Musa said the tanker had not employed an armed escort. He blamed a recent spate of ship attacks on collusion between criminals and company insiders.
The region's main militant umbrella group, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that one of its "affiliates" had launched the attack. The group, which uses the acronym MEND, promised to help liberate the hostage.
"MEND is in touch with the group and will ensure the abducted man is released unharmed at the earliest convenience," it said.