Nigerian police arrest gang members suspected of killing American oil workers:

Nigeria is world's seventh-largest oil exporter and fifth-largest source of U.S. oil imports

Associated Press

June 23, 2004

LAGOS, Nigeria -- Nigerian police arrested four gang members suspected of gunning down two American oil workers in the volatile oil delta, police say.

John Togo, Peter Balogbowei, Felix Rigowei and Paralowe Egumenu were arrested at a hide-out in the oil city of Port Harcourt following information received by intelligence officers, police spokesman Chris Olakpe said Monday.

The four "are now in police net," said Olakpe, without giving further details.

Ryne Hathaway, 42, of San Antonio, and Denny Fowler, 47, of Grapevine, Texas, worked for International Building Systems. They arrived in Nigeria a day before they were killed by machine-gun fire on April 23, while returning in a boat from an oil platform operated by ChevronTexaco.

The attack killed five Nigerians, including three soldiers. A third American was seriously injured.

Brig. Gen. Elias Zamani, commander of a security task force deployed to quell escalating violence in the Niger Delta including attacks on oil installations, confirmed the arrests.

"John Togo and his gang were the mastermind of a series of heinous criminal acts ... ranging from armed robbery, unprovoked attack on troops, sea piracy and kidnapping," Zamani said.

An ethnic Ijaw warlord, Dokubo Asari, told Associated Press his fighters captured the suspects near Port Harcourt, tying them up and leaving them "in the bush" before informing police. Police and soldiers declined comment on his claim, saying only the arrests were the result of "tipoffs."

Since last year, ethnic and criminal violence in the delta has killed more than 1,000 and shut wells accounting for between 7 percent and 25 percent of Nigeria's daily production.

Rival Ijaws and Itsekiris pledged peace last month although tensions remain high and oil companies have been hesitant to return to facilities abandoned since last year.

Nigeria is the world's seventh-largest oil exporter and the fifth-largest source of U.S. oil imports.