Israeli kidnapped in Nigerian city

Many gangs known to operate in area where abductions of foreign nationals is a matter of course.

Port Harcourt 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Port Harcourt 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Foreign Ministry officials said on Wednesday they believe that the abduction of an Israeli businessman in Nigeria was criminally motivated and not related to any political or terrorist organization. The Israeli Counter-Terrorism Bureau had issued a warning that Hizbullah was attempting to kidnap Israelis vacationing or doing business in West Africa. The 60-year-old Israeli businessman, whose family asked that his name not to be disclosed, was kidnapped at gunpoint on Tuesday night in the southern city of Port Harcourt in Nigeria. "The entire family sits here and waits for someone to call and present their demands," one of the abducted businessman's daughters told The Jerusalem Post. She said her father last flew to Nigeria two weeks ago, and the family had maintained daily phone contact with him. The daughter said her father suffers from diabetes. "I truly don't know what a diabetic patient does without his insulin. The Foreign Ministry has opened a headquarters for monitoring [rescue] efforts, the relevant people in Nigeria are working to end this story - and we are here waiting for the phone to ring," she said. The businessman works for an Israeli construction company in Nigeria, and has been working in that country for the past 30 years. According to the Foreign Ministry, a group of gunmen ambushed the man as he and his driver returned from an event honoring Israel's Ambassador to Nigeria, Moshe Ram, that was held at the house of the governor of Rivers State. Rita Inoma-Abbey, spokeswoman for the Rivers State police, said on Wednesday that the businessman was kidnapped at the entrance to the parking lot of his house by gunmen and added that no one had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. She said the driver is being investigated for involvement in the abduction. Port Harcourt is at the center of the oil-producing region in Nigeria, which is the largest oil exporter in Africa and the fifth largest worldwide. The Niger Delta region has also been a focus of terrorist and criminal activity aimed at the multinational oil corporations operating in the area. A senior official in the Foreign Ministry told the Post that there were many scenarios being considered regarding the abduction, since only partial information had been gathered following the kidnapping. The official explained that the wealth generated by the region's oil production had also led to increased tensions, with fighting between ethnic groups as well as political violence protesting the environmental effects of the oil trade and the slow pace of development. The official added that the Nigerian government had initiated an investigation in which the Rivers State governor as well as the Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Moshe Ram, were involved. Ram and a team from the Israeli Embassy in Abuja, the capital, were sent to the Delta area. "Fortunately, the cooperation with the Nigerian authorities has been satisfactory. This area suffers from hundreds of abductions a year, most of them ending in the payment of ransom or political benefits for the abducting groups," the official said. Earlier this month, security officials warned Israeli businessmen and community leaders who live in West Africa about Hizbullah's attempts to carry out an attack in revenge for the killing of Imad Mughniyeh in February this year, which Hizbullah attributes to the Mossad. The possibility that the abduction was terrorist-related has not been completely eliminated yet. The Israeli business community in Nigeria includes several hundred businessmen and employees of Israeli companies. The abducted Israeli works for the construction company Gilmore, and was recently involved in a $70 million project for the building of the headquarters of the Central Bank of Nigeria.