PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria -- One of seven foreign oil workers taken hostage yesterday was killed and another was wounded during a rescue attempt that also left two kidnappers and a soldier dead, officials said.
Gunmen had seized the seven hostages from a supply vessel belonging to a subsidiary of Italian oil giant Eni SpA about 30 miles off the coast of southern Nigeria in the latest attack by militants on facilities in the volatile Niger Delta, where most of the country's oil is produced.
An Eni statement confirmed that "during an attempt by the Nigerian navy to free the seven hostages . . . there was an exchange of fire during which one hostage was killed and the remaining six, including one wounded one, were freed and taken to a safe place."
The slain hostage was British and the wounded man was Italian, according to a colleague who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed the Italian hostage was hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening.
Eni had said earlier that the hostages were two Finns, an Italian, a Filipino, a Briton, a Pole, and a Romanian. The Finnish Foreign Ministry confirmed that two Finns were among those freed.
Government and private security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said the dead included two of the kidnappers and one Nigerian soldier.
In all, 25 foreign workers and nearly 60 Nigerian employees had been aboard the vessel that was attacked overnight, Eni said.
A private security contractor said that nearly all those on the vessel were held at gunpoint for a period before the attackers left with the seven captives.
Since January, militant groups have attacked pipelines and taken workers hostage in violence that has cut about 25 percent of Nigeria's usual crude output of about 2.5 million barrels daily.