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THE NEW YORK TIMES: Nigerian Militants Say Strike More Oil Targets

By REUTERS
Published: February 20, 2006
Filed at 2:35 a.m. ET
LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigerian militants said they blew up a military houseboat and an oil pipeline on Monday, extending a campaign of sabotage in the world's eighth largest exporter which has already cut supplies by a fifth.

The militants, who are holding nine foreign hostages, vowed to prevent Royal Dutch Shell from using the damaged Forcados export loading platform, which accounts for 15 percent of Nigerian output, and threatened an even more devastating series of attacks on the whole region.

“Patrol units … carried out attacks on one houseboat belonging to the Nigerian army and the Shell Ughelli Odidi-Escravos manifold. Both were destroyed with explosives,'' the militants said in an e-mail, adding that the soldiers in the houseboat fled before it was destroyed.
It was not immediately possible to confirm the information independently, but the militants have provided accurate details of their attacks in the past.
Royal Dutch Shell said it had suspended 455,000 barrels a day of oil production, 19 percent of the OPEC member's output, after a series of pre-dawn raids on installations in Delta state, in the western side of the vast river delta, on Saturday.
“We are going to continue with the destruction of oil facilities in Delta state while concluding arrangements for our wider attacks on the entire region,'' the militants said.
Shell said it closed 340,000 barrels a day of production from fields feeding its Forcados tanker platform, which was bombed on Saturday, and it shut another 115,000 barrels daily by closing the offshore EA field as a precaution.
The Forcados closure includes 106,000 barrels a day from a pipeline which has been shut since an earlier attack in January.
North Sea Brent crude oil futures rose $1.26 to $61.15 a barrel on Monday morning.
HOSTAGES
The militants snatched the hostages — three Americans, a Briton, two Egyptians, two Thais and one Filipino — from a barge operated by U.S. services company Willbros.
The campaign of violence mirrors attacks in December and January which hit 10 percent of Nigerian exports at one point and saw four oil workers kidnapped for 19 days.
The militants said that Shell was planning to use one manifold on the Forcados loading platform, which was not damaged in Saturday's attack, to export oil.
“Regardless of whatever security arrangements they depend on and time of the day, we will attack this vessel and execute everyone on board. It is needless to say what will happen to the surviving manifold in the next few hours,'' they said.
The government says the militant movement is a cover for thieves siphoning crude oil on a commercial scale from pipelines across the vast wetlands region of southern Nigeria.
The militants accused Nigerian military and security commanders in the area of being responsible for the theft.
“Oil is not like diamonds and requires ships to come in unhindered. This is facilitated by the heads of these security organisations who are paid a standard fee for every vessel loaded,'' they said.
The militants have demanded the release of two ethnic Ijaw leaders — an impeached state governor on trial for money laundering and a militia leader charged with treason — and more local control over the Niger Delta's vast oil resources.
Analysts at Eurasia Group said the markets should expect a prolonged period of disruptions in Nigeria this year, as tension between rival factions of the ruling party mounts toward elections in early 2007.
“The security situation in the Niger Delta will remain largely unstable for the rest of the year, with intermittent attacks, regularly disrupting about 10 to 20 percent of Nigerian crude production,'' they said in a report on Sunday.
The situation could get even worse if President Olusegun Obasanjo tries to run for a third — and unconstitutional — third term, or if one of the two imprisoned Ijaw leaders is sentenced to death or dies in custody, they added.

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