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Pakistani Engineer Missing in Nigeria for a Month, Employer Says

A Pakistani engineer seized from a vessel in Nigerian waters is missing for a 33rd day and claims of his sightings are so far unfounded, employer Petrostar Nigeria Ltd. said.

A group which said it had Kaleem Ul Haq Usmani “sent a photograph of a man I have never seen in my life,” Elie Elie, Petrostar’s spokesman in Lagos, said in a phone interview. “I think they’re fraudsters.” He didn’t identify the group.

Usmani and Qasim Muhammed were in the vessel MT Leo, on its way from Lagos to the southeastern city of Calabar, when it was boarded by gunmen on Feb. 22, according to the company. Both men were taken away in a boat which later sunk and Muhammed was “picked up by another vessel,” Elie said on March 8. Muhammed reported seeing Usmani floating on his life jacket, raising hopes he might have been rescued by another vessel, according to Elie.

Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, has seen a renewed surge of violence in the coastal region where most of its crude is pumped by armed groups targeting shipping and the hydrocarbons industry. Attacks had declined after thousands of militants fighting for a greater share of the region’s wealth for its inhabitants, accepted a government amnesty in 2009 and disarmed.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Total SA and Eni SpA run joint ventures with state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. that pump more than 90 percent of the country’s crude.

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