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Shell evacuates platforms Shell evacuates platforms

“Clashes between troops and militia fighters forced oil giant Royal Dutch/Shell to evacuate two oil facilities in Nigeria’s southern oil region, the company said on Friday.”

Posted 25 Sept 04 (SA)

Lagos – Clashes between troops and militia fighters forced oil giant Royal Dutch/Shell to evacuate two oil facilities in Nigeria’s southern oil region, the company said on Friday.

“The evacuation was just a precautionary safety measure” prompted by clashes near the Soku gas platform and the Ekulama oil pumping station, a company spokesman in Lagos said on condition of anonymity.

Despite fighting in the area, Shell said there has been no disruption to its production and exports. Shell accounts for roughly half of Nigeria’s daily exports of 2.5 million barrels.

Army spokesperson Captain Ogbonna Kanu confirmed a military “task force” was conducting an offensive against militia fighters around Sombreiro River but couldn’t give any details.

Militia leader Moujahid Dokubo-Asari said fighting broke out along the river just before dawn on Friday. He claimed his fighters had pushed government troops back.

“They were forced to withdraw. We also withdrew because daylight was approaching and we wanted to avoid raids by helicopter gunships,” Dokubo-Asari told The Associated Press by satellite phone from the area.

Dokubo-Asari said his fighters suffered no casualties but couldn’t say if any soldiers were killed in the battle.

The military launched their latest offensive against Dokubo-Asari’s fighters early this month in response to deadly raids by his militia into Nigeria’s main oil industry centre, Port Harcourt, in August.

Dokubo-Asari said the raids were aimed at members of a rival militia group he alleges is supported by the government. The government denies the charge.

500 killed

Human rights group Amnesty International said last week up to 500 people, including women and children, were killed in fighting between rival gangs in and around Port Harcourt in August.

The Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force claims to be fighting for self-determination for an estimated 8 million ethnic Ijaws, the largest tribe in the impoverished oil region where locals accuse joint ventures run by the government and oil companies of cheating them out of wealth produced in their land.

Dokubo-Asari acknowledges illegally tapping and selling crude oil from pipelines in the region to fund his fighters.

Three weeks of intense aerial bombardment and assaults by troops in gunboats have resulted in the sacking of several towns and villages and the death large numbers of civilians, the militia leader said.

He alleges the military has been using some “chemical agents” in the bombardments which has caused rashes and skin eruptions on his fighters and has led some of them to advocate targeting oil facilities and pipelines.

Kanu, the army spokesperson, denied the military has used any chemical weapons.

“The Task Force has no access to any chemical weapons, and we can’t use what we don’t have,” he said.

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