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Forbes/AFX News Limited: Nigerian troops clash with militants in restive oil region

03.31.2006
LAGOS (AFX) – Nigerian troops engaged separatist militants in a fierce gun duel in the swamps of the Niger Delta, leaving some fighters dead, an army spokesman said.
'Our men were attacked during a patrol operation in the area. We fought back and some of the aggressors were killed. The army recorded no casualties,' army spokesman Colonel Mohammed Yussuf said.
The gunfight on Thursday erupted near Shell's Benisede oil flow station, which was destroyed in January by militants from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in a battle that left 14 soldiers dead.
The fighting around Benisede in Bayelsa State was the latest between ethnic Ijaw militants and soldiers of the Joint Task Force set up to protect oil facilities in the troubled region.
Last week, three soldiers died when their boat capsized during a patrol of oil and gas plants in the region, according to a navy spokesman.
Since the start of the year, attacks by militants have forced Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell and other foreign oil majors to cut Nigerian production by a total of 533,000 barrels per day.
A total of 13 foreign oil workers have been kidnapped and later released after weeks of negotiations with the militants.
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