Colombian gunmen kidnap 23 oil exploration workers

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 18, 2011 4:38 PM
Colombian gunmen kidnap 23 oil exploration workers

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian gunmen have kidnapped 23 local oil contractors carrying out exploration work in a remote jungle area for Canada's Talisman Energy Inc, a provincial governor said on Monday.

Vichada Governor Juan Carlos Avila told Caracol Radio gunmen forced the workers out of the camp from which they were conducting contract work for Talisman, which is a partner of state oil company Ecopetrol.

"They forced them into the jungles," Avila said, adding that all those kidnapped were Colombian nationals.

A spokeswoman for Talisman could not immediately comment on the incident.

Guerrillas from the FARC rebel group and illegal cocaine trafficking gangs operate in Vichada province in the oil-rich flatlands of eastern Colombia.

Kidnappings have become rarer in Colombia as security has improved, but Monday's large-scale hostage-taking shows the risks still facing the oil and mining firms working in rural parts of the Andean country where state presence is weak.

(Reporting by Patrick Markey; Editing by Eric Walsh)