Four Australians have been kidnapped by gunmen in southern Nigeria who killed their local driver in an early morning attack.
The workers, two of whom police said later escaped, were contractors for cement company Lafarge Africa.
Initial reports suggested two of the kidnapped were Australians – but Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s office said authorities were working to confirm claims that four of those abducted were Australians.
‘The Australian Government is working to confirm details of the reported kidnapping in Nigeria of four Australians, who have been working for an Australian mining company,’ Ms Bishop said.
‘The Australian Government is in close contact with the Nigerian Government, which is taking the matter extremely seriously.’
According to local media a group of militants ambushed the contractors before opening fire and killing the driver on the spot.
A witness told Vanguard: ‘One of the expatriates hid under the vehicle and they didn’t see him because it was still a bit dark,’ the unnamed witness said.
‘They also took one of the drivers … then one supervisor and three white guys and it was like they had a boat by the beach already waiting for them.’
They were attacked on the outskirts of the city of Calabar at around 5.30am local time on Wednesday, police said.
There was earlier confusion over the nationalities of those involved. But Irene Ugbo, a spokeswoman for Cross River state police, said two were Australians and one was a New Zealander.
A second police spokesman later said another foreigner abducted was from South Africa.
Two expatriates managed to flee, said Ugbo, adding that she did not know the nationality of any of the workers feared still held.
The kidnappers had not contacted police, she said.
Lafarge Africa said it had been informed of the incident by Australian contractor Macmahon.
‘Macmahon is working with the security agencies to resolve this situation,’ said Viola Graham-Douglas, a spokeswoman for Lafarge Africa.
Macmahon could not immediately be reached for comment.
Nigerian publication Today said a New Zealander was among those kidnapped, along with three Australians, a South African and a Nigerian.
According to the report, police were working to ensure the victims are released unharmed.
Comment is being sought from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
They were attacked on the outskirts of the city of Calabar at around 5.30am local time on Wednesday