November 23, 2009 / 12:52 PM / 9 years ago

Gunmen kidnap two children in Nigerian oil city

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria (Reuters) - Gunmen kidnapped two children on their way to school in Nigeria’s main oil city of Port Harcourt, police said on Monday, the latest crime in a spree that has forced some residents to flee the city.

The two children, both below the age of 10, were taken from their car in central Port Harcourt early on Monday. It was not clear who were responsible for the kidnappings.

“This morning we got a report that two kids were abducted while they were being driven to school. We are still investigating,” said Rita Inoma-Abbey, police spokeswoman for Rivers state, of which Port Harcourt is the capital.

Kidnappings for ransom are common in the oil-producing Niger Delta with hundreds of incidents reported each year.

Residents in Port Harcourt say violent crimes have become more common and blame it on former militants, who left the creeks of the Niger Delta in an amnesty offer that ended in October.

The amnesty offer is the most serious attempt yet to end years of unrest in the Niger Delta, where armed gangs have blown up pipelines and kidnapped foreign oil workers to push what they say are demands for a fairer share of the natural wealth.

But there have been delays to the promised monthly stipends and retraining programmes for those who agreed to disarm.

Sceptics had warned that unless they were quickly found work and a source of income, many would return to a life of crime.

In a separate incident, gunmen shot dead a state government official on Saturday at a false police checkpoint in Port Harcourt, police said. It was not clear who was behind it.

The University of Port Harcourt, one of Nigeria’s top universities, was closed last week after lecturers and students said it was too dangerous to continue work since a rehabilitation facility for former rebel fighters was established near the campus.

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