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An executive of the U.S. oil service company Baker Hughes was killed in an apparently targeted attack in Nigeria's southeastern oil city of Port Harcourt on Wednesday, authorities said.
PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria (Reuters) -- An executive of the U.S. oil service company Baker Hughes was killed in an apparently targeted attack in Nigeria's southeastern oil city of Port Harcourt on Wednesday, authorities said.
It was not immediately clear if the attack was related to a five-month campaign by Niger Delta militants to cripple the oil industry in the world's eighth largest exporter, but a diplomat and an oil company source said they thought not.
"The American was shot by a man on a motorcycle. The motorcycle pulled up beside him and shot him," Rivers State Police Commissioner Samuel Agbetuyi told Reuters.
The Houston-based company, which drills oil wells and performs other services for big oil companies, was not immediately available for comment.
An oil company source said the gunman on the motorcycle appeared to be working in coordination with a car, and it looked like a targeted assassination of the American, who held a managerial role in the company.
Militants from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), whose attacks have cut Nigerian oil exports by a quarter, threatened this week to carry out attacks on oil industry targets and individuals.
However, they have treated American oil workers well during kidnappings, and the Port Harcourt killing did not bear any similarity to previous MEND attacks.
A diplomat said: "It looks like a targeted attack on that individual but my guess is that it was a private matter."
The oil industry source said Baker Hughes had decided to pull its staff out of Port Harcourt to Lagos as a security precaution.
Port Harcourt is the largest city in the Delta, and several oil multinationals have major offices there, including Royal Dutch Shell and Agip.
"It helps to reinforce the gloomy picture in Nigeria. A lot of subcontractors are worried about working in Port Harcourt now," the oil industry source said.
Even if the attack is not linked to MEND, it reinforces a trend of rising violent crime in the region, which pumps all of the OPEC member nation's oil.
The violence stems from deep-seated resentment by many inhabitants of the Delta, where impoverished villages stand close to multibillion-dollar oil facilities.
Many residents of the vast wetlands region feel cheated out of the riches being pumped from their tribal lands.
Neglect and rampant corruption have eroded trust in government, while communal rivalries and abuses by the military have fuelled the rise of well-armed community militias.
They have taken advantage of the absence of law and order to engage in large-scale theft of crude oil, extortion, blackmail and kidnapping against oil companies, who rely on ill-equipped and poorly trained police and military to protect them.