Friday, September 19, 2008

Nigeria Militants Step Up 'War'

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="226" caption="The militants say they are fighting to bring more money to the Niger Delta"]The militants say they are fighting to bring more money to the Niger Delta[/caption]

Militants have attacked another oil facility in Nigeria's Delta region, after "declaring war" at the weekend.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) said it had destroyed Shell's Orubiri flow-station.

"Militants in eight speed boats attacked Orubiri with bombs, dynamite and hand grenades," said military spokesman Lt Col Sagir Musa.

This is the fourth attack this week. Nigeria's oil production has been cut by 20% due to the unrest.

Col Musa told Reuters news agency that no soldiers had been killed in the attack.

Militants also claimed to have blown up a major oil pipeline at Rumuekpe in Rivers State, but the military could not confirm the attack.

Hostages not free

The BBC's Andrew Walker in Nigeria says the recent fighting has been the heaviest in two years between militants and security forces.

Mend says it has killed at least 29 people, mostly soldiers, although this has been denied by the military.

Two other Shell facilities have been attacked, while a raid on one owned by Chevron was fought off on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the military said two South African hostages captured on the weekend had been released, but this has been denied by Mend.
The South Africans were among 27, including two Britons, seized from an oil services ship on Saturday.

The other workers were Nigerians, Mend said.

"For the avoidance of doubt Mend wishes to state we still have custody of the two South African Hostages," an e-mail to journalists said.

The group also said the hostages would be used as a "human shield" during their handover, which Mend said would happen soon.

On Monday a British oil worker was seized in the Delta's main city, Port Harcourt.

Mend said it was "declaring war" in response to attacks by the military, which it said had left seven of its fighters dead on Saturday.

Some 200 foreign oil workers have been taken hostage in recent years.

Almost all have been freed, normally in return for a ransom, although this is always officially denied.

The militants claim to be fighting for the rights of inhabitants of the oil-producing Niger Delta, who mostly live in poverty.

But many say they are criminal gangs out to extort money from oil companies.

Source: BBC

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