Anger at priest kidnap in Nigeria

Abuja, Nigeria - The Roman Catholic Church in Nigeria has condemned the kidnapping of a missionary in the oil-producing south.

The Archbishop of Abuja, Most Rev John Onaiyekan, head of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said the kidnappers had made a "grave mistake".

Father Pius Kii was seized by unidentified gunmen from the steps of his church in Port Harcourt on Sunday.

Many gangs in the Niger Delta make money from kidnapping, extortion and gun-running.

They say they want local people to benefit from the Niger Delta's oil wealth.

Unconfirmed reports from Church sources said militants had demanded a $20,000 (£14,000) ransom for Father Kii.

'Fear God'

"If they can kidnap a priest, then really no-one is safe," Archbishop Onaiyekan said.

"They should realise they have made a grave mistake, fear God and release him."

Father Kii is a member of the Missionary Society of St Paul, a Roman Catholic missionary organisation.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the most visible militant group, said the kidnap was "sacrilege and abomination".

"We will assist in the search as many of our fighters are Catholics and deeply touched by this development," Mend spokesman Jomo Gbomo said in an e-mail to the BBC.

The group has been kidnapping oil workers since 2006. In the past they have "rescued" non-oil worker hostages from other gangs.

Violence has cut oil production in the Niger Delta by about a fifth.