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Nigeria police vow to free abducted footballer Obodo

By AFP

LAGOS (AFP) - Nigerian police on Sunday vowed to rescue international footballer Christian Obodo unhurt after he was kidnapped near the oil city of Warri on Saturday.

"We confirm that Obodo was kidnapped yesterday (Saturday) in Effurum (near Warri). We are making all diligent efforts to ensure that he is rescued unhurt," Delta State police spokesman Charles Muka told AFP.

"We are very hopeful that we will rescue him alive. We are working in combination with all other security agencies, including local vigilante groups and communities. We are combing everywhere."

He said security agencies are working to ensure Obodo's release without the payment of a ransom demanded by his abductors.

Obodo's family has earlier also confirmed his adbuction.

The family said Obodo, who last season played for Lecce in Italy's Serie A, was driving alone in his car following a visit to a relative when he was taken by unknown gunmen.

"His whereabouts are unknown but his car was left behind by the kidnappers. We are yet to receive any call demanding a ransom," said a family member, who wished to remain anonymous.

The oil city of Warri is in Nigeria's restive Niger Delta region, where kidnapping is commonplace.

Media reports on Sunday said that he was seized in front of a church in Effurum and driven away to an unknown destination.

Obodo, 28, is a Nigerian international midfielder who spent last season on loan at southern Italian club Lecce from fellow Serie A side Udinese.

Lecce were relegated to Serie B on May 13 after finishing third from bottom of Italy's top flight.

Obodo is the first Nigerian footballer to be abducted.

Before now, relations of Nigerian footballers have been seized, and released later.

The brother of Everton defender Joseph Yobo was kidnapped in 2008 and freed days later, while last year the father of Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi was also abducted in the central city of Jos before being freed after a police raid.

A brief statement from Lecce on Obodo's abduction said: "We hope the situation can be resolved as soon as possible in the best possible way."

Obodo's brother, Kenneth Obodo, who is also a footballer in Italy and is currently in Nigeria, was quoted by Italian news agency ANSA as saying: "Christian is fine. We are in touch with the kidnappers, who want some money.

"We can't give them more than 100,000 euros ($125,000). Unfortunately these things happen in our country."

His brother-in-law, Obidike Okechukwu, was quoted by ANSA as saying that the kidnappers had asked for a ransom of 150,000 euros.

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