updated 7/12/2007 3:40:24 PM ET 2007-07-12T19:40:24

Gunmen seized the 3-year-old son of a prominent Nigerian chief in restive southern Nigeria, police said Thursday.

The son of Eze Francis Amadi, a traditional ruler, was kidnapped by two gunmen while being driven to school, police spokeswoman Irejua Barasua said.

Nigerian security services were investigating the kidnapping, and police were questioning the driver, she said.

The toddler is the fourth child taken captive in less than two months in the oil-rich region, beset by a wave of kidnappings this year.

Most of the victims have been foreigners, although Nigerians, including three children, also have been targeted.

Some groups say they are fighting for more political rights and an increased share of oil revenues for their impoverished region. Others merely demand large cash ransoms.

Nigerian kidnappers do not typically harm their hostages, although some have reported being beaten with sticks. A Belarusian woman shot in the knee was held for more than a week without medical attention.

The kidnappings have contributed to a cut in production in Africa’s largest oil producer by more than a quarter, driving up prices worldwide.

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