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International Herald Tribune: Armed men attack Nigerian oil facility; two assailants die in fighting

The Associated PressPublished: November 15, 2006

LAGOS, Nigeria: About a dozen armed men attacked a southern Nigeria oil facility owned by a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell PLC Wednesday, leaving two attackers dead, police said.

The 11 assailants were attempting to shut down the Oporoma station, but were pushed back by naval forces, said Hafiz Ringim, police commissioner for Bayelsa state. He said two of the attackers were killed in the fighting and one was captured.

No damage was reported to the flowstation, which connects oil pipelines. Shell officials were not immediately available for comment.

The captured attacker told police that the group mounted the assault to recover the balance of a ransom that was not fully paid after a hostage-taking last month.

Today in Africa & Middle East
 Troops in Iraq: To go or not to go? Where traditional customs can mean AIDS  Iranian plutonium puzzles atom officialsThe same flowstation was attacked last month, when staff were held for two days and the facility was looted. It was not immediately clear if this was the incident the attacker was referring to. More than 60 foreigners have been kidnapped in Africa’s largest oil producer since the beginning of the year, and several times that number of Nigerians.

Ringim said the captured assailant said the group had only received US$38,500 (about €30,000) of a promised US$300,000 (about €233,000).

Separately, Ringim said that attackers elsewhere in the state who were holding 35 Nigerian employees of Agip, a unit of Italian oil firm Eni SpA, had reduced their ransom demand to just over US$30,000 (about €23,000) from US$75,000 (about €58,000). The Agip employees have been held for over a week, though 13 managed to sneak away or were released.

Hostage-taking has become increasingly common in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta, where the majority of people live in grinding poverty. Although tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues are extracted every year, massive government corruption means that little of it is invested in infrastructure such as electricity, roads or education.

Analysts say a combination of corruption, frustration and the ready availability of arms means that violence is likely to increase ahead of next April’s elections. The country is Africa’s largest oil exporter and fifth-largest supplier of crude to the United States.

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