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IrelandOn-Line: Nigerian militants threaten more oil sabotage

06/03/2006 – 07:37:01
Armed militants in Nigeria vowed yesterday to cut daily oil exports from this West African nation’s troubled delta region by another one million barrels by the end of March, as OPEC nations prepared for a strategy meeting in Vienna this week.
A wave of militant assaults on pipelines and oil facilities has already cut production by 455,000 barrels per day in Nigeria, which normally exports 2.5 million barrels of crude daily.
In recent days, militants have repeatedly threatened to escalate the conflict with new attacks and rocket assaults on international oil tankers in Nigerian waters. There have been no new attacks since militants destroyed Shell-operated pipeline on February 20.
In an e-mail to the press, the militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said “we are going to inflict one huge, crippling blow on the Nigerian oil industry and a most embarrassing attack on the Nigerian government.”
“Our target for the month of March is a further cut of one million barrels.” Nigerian normally exports 2.5 million barrels of oil daily,” the group said. They gave no details, but said they were planning “one huge, crippling blow” to the oil industry.
The militant group claims to be fighting for the interests of the people of the Niger Delta region, which has remained poor despite the fact that most of Nigeria’s oil is being pumped from it.
Attacks since January have caused severe disruptions to oil exports by Nigeria, one of OPEC’s leading producers. The attacks have helped push edgy oil prices higher on international markets.
The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, meets on Wednesday in Vienna to map out strategies for spring and early summer.
Ethnic Ijaw militants took nine foreign oil workers hostages February 18 and released six of them last week. Yesterday, the militants said they had no plans to release the remaining three – two Americans and one Briton.
The militant group wants President Olusegun Obasanjo’s federal government to release two prominent, jailed Ijaws – one militant leader accused of treason and a former regional governor held on corruption charges after he fled money laundering charges in Britain. They also want the federal government to increase the region’s share of oil wealth.
The Ijaws, who number between 8-12 million people, are the dominant tribe in the Niger Delta.

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