The main militant group in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta said on Wednesday it would help find and negotiate the release of an Israeli engineer kidnapped in the region if asked to do so.
"We may assist the Israeli government in locating and negotiating the release of the hostage if requested to do so through its ambassador," the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said in an e-mailed statement.
The kidnapped man is a 60-year-old businessman from the city of Raanana in central Israel. His family asked not to reveal his identity. The identity of the four abductors is unknown. Unfortunately, it is known that the victim is a diabetic.
The businessman's friend, Ron Eisen, who was with him in Nigeria, said that Israeli business associates in Nigeria have the man's insulin. Eisen stated how well-liked the kidnapping victim had been among his colleagues and wished for a quick resolution to the situation that would bring him back to Israel safely.
Earlier Wednesday, Yossi Levy, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, told Ynet, "All we can say at the moment is that an Israeli businessman was kidnapped from the coastal city of Port Harcourt in Nigeria, near the rivers' delta.
"This area has been known for years as a designated kidnapping and smuggling area and as a tense region on the backdrop of political, tribal tensions. The motives behind the Israeli national's abduction are unclear at this stage."
"The Foreign Ministry's situation room has appointed a special operations team to closely monitor the developments and try to speed up the release process. Israel's Ambassador to Nigeria Moshe Ram is in the city where the abduction took place and is closely handling the necessary
The businessman's 33-year-old daughter told Ynet on Wednesday afternoon, "In the meantime, we have no news. All we know is that he was kidnapped and we are waiting for information.
"We are waiting for the kidnappers to call and tell us what they want. They should call people at the Foreign Ministry, the Israeli Embassy in Nigeria, the company, us, someone. We are standing here and waiting to hear what they want, because at the moment we have no information.
"It's all in their hands. We are waiting for any information – what the kidnappers want, where he is being held. In the meantime we don’t even know who took him. No one has claimed responsibility so far. We still don’t know if its criminally or nationalistically motivated."
A chronicle of kidnappings
Nigerian police spokeswoman Rita Inoma-Abbey said the expatriate's driver has been arrested in
connection with the incident and that no further details are immediately available.
Nigeria is Africa's leading oil exporter and the United State's fifth largest oil supplier, exporting some 2.5 million barrels a day. Nigeria's gunmen have launched an all-out war against the country's oil industry, which has significantly reduced Nigeria's oil reserves and led to a destruction of the power supply.
The abduction of foreign workers from Nigeria's oil industry is a known phenomenon. Hundreds of local and foreign workers employed in these facilities have been kidnapped in recent years.
The abductions are usually members of local armed gangs, who answer to local criminals. Most of the abductees are released after a few days in exchange for a ransom.
About a month ago, the Nigerian army announced that eight foreign nationals were kidnapped by gunmen in Port Harcourt. Several hours later, the abductees were released by the gunmen safe and sound. The army spokesman said at the time that a ransom had not been paid for the abductees.
- Initial report received via Red Email
The Associated Press contributed to this report