Two U.S. nationals have been taken hostage after an attack on a U.S. ship 40 miles off the Nigerian coast.
The American captain and chief engineer of the oil platform supply ship C-Retriever were kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Nigeria on Wednesday, news agencies reported, citing anonymous U.S. defense officials.
U.S. officials confirmed to reporters that there were 13 people on board the vessel when it came under attack, and that two American citizens were taken hostage and being held at an unknown location. Their condition was unknown, and there were no immediate claims of responsibility.
An online maritime industry website first reported the incident, saying the “C-Retriever,” owned by Louisiana-based marine transport company Edison Chouest, was attacked by pirates near the city of Brass, in the Niger Delta, on Wednesday. Brass sits at the mouth of one of the many rivers and streams that empty into the Gulf of Guinea, forming the Delta, which is home to a number of large international oil platforms and regular industry ship traffic.
The U.S. State Department said it was “closely monitoring” the reports and was “seeking additional information about the incident.”
An American man from Georgia was kidnapped from the Niger Delta city of Warri last year. He was freed after a week in captivity, possibly for a large ransom, though the circumstances were not confirmed. There were five reports of U.S. nationals being kidnapped in Nigeria in 2011.
Nigeria’s government earns billions of dollars a year from its resources in the oil-rich Delta, but is frequently accused of widespread corruption that keeps the vast majority of Nigerians from sharing in the wealth.
The Delta region’s inhabitants remain impoverished, and for years small groups of bandits have attacked oil industry vessels, but the attacks have increased in recent years and become more dangerous, according to one industry worker who left the region last year.