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New York Times: Armed Men Attack Nigerian Oil Facility

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: November 16, 2006

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Eleven armed men attacked a southern Nigeria oil facility owned by a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell PLC Wednesday, leaving two attackers dead, police officials said.

The assailants were repelled by naval forces as they attempted to shut down the Oporoma station, 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 spokesman Bisi Ojediran confirmed that Oporoma had been attacked but said he had no further details.

Police said the captured man told them that the group mounted the assault to recover the balance of a ransom that was never fully paid after a hostage-taking last month.

The same flowstation was attacked last month, when staff were held for two days and the facility was looted. It was not immediately clear if the captured man was referring to this incident.

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 man said the group had only received US$38,500 of a promised US$300,000 ransom.

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, reduced their ransom demand to about US$30,000 from US$75,000. The workers have been held for over a week, though 13 managed to sneak away or were released.

Meanwhile, a judge in the capital, Abuja, charged two men with kidnapping for taking six foreigners, including an American, from a bar in Nigeria’ oil hub of Port Harcourt in August. Both men pleaded not guilty.

Judge Babs Kuwewunmi ordered that they be kept in prison until the trial resumes next month.

Hostage-taking has become increasingly common in Nigeria’s oil-rich delta, where millions live in grinding poverty. Although billions of dollars in oil revenue are extracted every year, massive government corruption means that little money gets invested in electric lines, roads or education.

Analysts say the combination of corruption, frustration and availability of arms means that violence is likely to increase ahead of April presidential elections.

Nigeria is the fifth-largest supplier of crude oil to the United States.

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Associated Press Writers William Nsoyoh in Bayelsa, Nigeria, and Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria, contributed to this report.

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