updated 5/1/2007 4:57:42 PM ET 2007-05-01T20:57:42

Gunmen armed with dynamite assaulted a Chevron Corp. tanker in Nigeria's southern oil-producing region early Tuesday, killing a government sailor and kidnapping an American oil worker and five other foreigners, authorities said.

The restive region's main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, claimed responsibility.

Navy Capt. Obiora Medani said the sailor was a guard aboard the tanker FPSO Oloibiri, which was in waters off Bayelsa state.

Chevron said it shut down a station pumping oil to the ship, cutting its daily production by 15,000 barrels.

Tope Idowu, a spokesman for the California-based company, said the gunmen kidnapped an American worker, four Italians and one Croatian. He said the American worked for Chevron in Nigeria while the rest were employees of a subsidiary, Chevron Shipping Co.

No demands had been made by the attackers, Idowu added.

Rebels claim responsibility
The claim of responsibility was sent from an e-mail address used by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. It said the attack was to demonstrate the group's continued strength as the West African nation ushers in a new government after recent elections.

"We will continue with our struggle for justice until we achieve all our goals without exception," the group said.

The group promised to free the hostages May 30 and listed no demands. It previously has demanded freedom for two leaders imprisoned by the government on treason and corruption charges and it wants the Niger Delta's people to have greater control over the region's oil wealth.

While the country's oil exports generate tens of billions of dollars in revenue annually, most Nigerians live in poverty. Extensive government corruption leaves social services largely nonexistent.

Kidnapping foreign workers for cash is common in the lawless southern region. Some abductors make political demands and others demand large ransoms, but they usually release the hostages unharmed. The groups enjoy protection from local politicians, who are suspected of using them as thugs.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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