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Reuters: Nigerian Shell oil platform invaders holding five

16 Dec 2006 16:02:08 GMT

LAGOS, Dec 16 (Reuters) – At least five people are still being held hostage by gunmen who seized an oil platform operated by Royal Dutch Shell in the Niger Delta, shutting its 12,000 barrel per day oil output, the company said on Saturday.

The invasion of the Nun River flow station state on Thursday was the second attack on Western oil interests in Bayelsa state after militants had tried to destroy a major export terminal and kidnapped four expatriates eight days earlier.

“The invaders are still at the facility and at the last count they were still holding about five people hostage,” said a Shell spokesman.

“They have shut down the Nun River flow station and we are losing 12,000 barrels per day.”

About 40 people were initially taken captive when the oil platform was attacked on Thursday.

A Shell spokesman said the state government was in talks with the invaders to free the hostages since Shell had no direct dispute with the community.

An industry source said the invaders are demanding monetary compensation for their comrades who were killed in a recent military raid and the release of those still in detention.

The Nun River facility was occupied by armed men for two days in October during which 60 oil workers were kept against their will over a community’s financial dispute with Shell.

Conflicts between communities in the Niger Delta and oil multinationals are common in Nigeria, the world’s eighth largest oil exporter.

Local chiefs often organise armed invasions of nearby oil facilities to exert pressure on companies to deliver more cash, jobs or investment. These crises are normally resolved after a few days through negotiations involving the government.

Invasions are one of a variety of security issues facing oil firms in the Niger Delta, which produces all of Nigeria’s 2.4 million bpd, including violent crime, kidnapping and extortion.

Resentment against the oil industry is fuelled by poverty and neglect. Militancy for political ends is also on the rise.

Nigerian oil production is already down by about a fifth because of militant attacks in another part of the delta in February.

The four foreign oil workers captured last week from the Brass export terminal, also in Bayelsa state, are still being held.

The group behind the capture of the three Italians and one Lebanese has made several demands including more regional control over the delta’s oil wealth.

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