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Belarus demands Nigeria ensure release of captured national

MINSK, May 7 (RIA Novosti) - Belarus has sent a note of protest to Nigeria's Foreign Ministry, demanding measures to ensure the release of a Belarusian woman abducted in the oil-rich African state Saturday, a Foreign Ministry official said Monday.

"The Foreign Ministry of Belarus has sent a protest note to Nigeria's Foreign Ministry, demanding prompt measures to have the Belarusian national released as soon as possible," the ministry's information chief Maria Vanshina said Monday.

The woman, who is married to a Nigerian and is a senior manager with the local branch of the British services company Compass Group, was kidnapped while returning from work in the country's main oil city of Port Harcourt. Gunmen stopped her car and took the woman away, Vanshina said.

A counselor at the Russian embassy in Nigeria, which is handling the case at the request of the ex-Soviet nation that has no diplomatic mission in the country, said Monday the kidnappers had contacted Compass Group and said the woman was alive, but had hung up the phone before making any demands.

"Kidnappers contacted company executives this morning," Viktor Goncharov said. They only phoned to say she is alive and feeling well and then hung up the phone. They said they would telephone later."

Goncharov said those behind the abduction were believed to be criminals and no political demands were expected.

He said Russian embassy officials were in contact with Nigeria's Foreign Ministry, police, and Compass Group executives and were ready to take action any moment.

Militants fighting against the Nigerian government for greater autonomy in the oil-rich Niger Delta have intensified their attacks lately on oil industry facilities that are largely run by western companies.

The latest kidnapping has brought the total number of foreign workers abducted in Nigeria to 28 in a week. Eight hostages have already been released.

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