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Nigerian Troops Raid Oil Delta Village; 6 Killed

The Wall Street Journal: Nigerian Troops Raid Oil Delta Village; 6 Killed

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

Posted 14 June 04

LAGOS (AP)–Soldiers and police in speedboats with mounted machine guns raided a village in Nigeria’s oil delta, killing at least five men who resisted the operation to seize illegal weapons, officers said Saturday.

Local gunmen shot and killed one soldier during Friday’s raid in Ogodobiri village, said Brig. Gen. Elias Zamani, commander of a joint army-police task force in the troubled southern Niger Delta.

Zamani visited the village – near Shell’s Forcados export terminal – hours after the raid, when he saw the bodies of five suspected “river pirates” killed by security force troops. “Many others” were likely killed and whisked away by villagers, he added.

“The boys were well dug-in. They were in trenches,” when they opened fire on the security force team, Zamani said.

The operation left security force troops in control of the otherwise abandoned village.

Fleeing residents estimated 20 people killed, including two elderly men. They spoke on condition of anonymity.

The clash followed a river battle last week between soldiers and armed youths that killed at least 17 people, army spokesman Maj. Said Hamed said.

Hundreds had fled that attack. Those remaining abandoned their homes and belongings when they saw the security force team returning Friday, Hamed said.

“We have to raid some of these areas so we can have complete peace in the creeks,” Hamed said.

Warring ethnic militants had pledged peace last month after the killings of two U.S. oil workers prompted a government crackdown on a yearlong spree of bloodletting. Despite the peace agreement, violence has continued unabated.

Police and military have detained dozens of people in the killings of U.S. oil contractors Ryne Hathaway and Denny Fowler and five Nigerians.

The escalating violence in the Niger Delta, where the bulk of Nigeria’s oil is drilled, has forced multinational firms to shut some wells and pipeline facilities and turn their attention offshore in recent years.

Nigeria is the world’s seventh-largest oil exporter and the fifth-largest supplier to the U.S.

For weeks last year, the crisis cut the country’s production by nearly one-quarter, and production has yet to fully return to normal this year.

Rights groups accuse Nigeria’s government and oil firms of fanning the fighting with “divide-and-rule tactics,” including payoffs to militants from one side to protect oil sites from the other.

Royal Dutch/Shell (RD SC), which produces half of Nigeria’s oil, admitted Thursday that it “sometimes feed conflict by the way we award contracts, gain access to land and deal with community representatives.”

The statement was in response to a critical independent report commissioned by the firm that reported warned mounting violence could force the firm to completely abandon onshore operations by 2008.

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