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THE NEW YORK TIMES: Nigerian Militants Say Kill 7 Soldiers in Gunfight

By REUTERS
LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigerian militants said on Thursday they killed seven soldiers in a firefight during an attack by the army in the southern Niger Delta, and threatened reprisals against the military and oil company Royal Dutch Shell.
It was the biggest military attack on militants from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta since mid-February, when a military bombardment of a militant stronghold prompted a string of devastating attacks on oil installations and the kidnapping of nine foreign oil workers.
“Our patrols on the Escravos River were attacked in the vicinity of Okerenkoko by four patrol boats belonging to the Nigerian Army,'' the militants said in an email, adding that there was a 45 minute firefight in the attack which occurred on Wednesday evening.
“Seven soldiers were confirmed killed at the scene of the attack and an unspecified number reported dead upon arrival at the Shell terminal from where this attack was launched,'' they said.
It was not immediately possible to confirm the statement, but the militants have provided accurate information on previous such incidents.
The militants are still holding three foreign hostages — two Americans and one Briton — from last month's raids, when their attacks on pipelines and a loading platform forced Shell to cut 455,000 barrels a day output, or one fifth of the OPEC member's oil output.
On Wednesday, they named an Ijaw activist as mediator for talks with the government, raising hopes of a speedy resolution to the three-month-old crisis.
The militants said 32 troops initially attacked in four boats, but were reinforced by three more boats containing 24 more soldiers. They said they suffered no casualties.
The military was not immediately available for comment.
The militants also said they had received reports of army patrols firing indiscriminately into Ijaw communities near the village of Odidi.
“In the light of this, we are considering what further actions to take against the military and Shell installations in Forcados and Odidi,'' the militants said.
Shell has already evacuated all its staff from the Forcados region, and shut all its production from the western side of the delta.

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