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Reuters: Two car bombs hit Nigerian oil compounds

Mon Dec 18, 2006 12:11pm ET 
By Austin Ekeinde

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria (Reuters) – Two car bombs exploded at oil company compounds in Nigeria’s oil capital Port Harcourt on Monday damaging cars but causing no casualties, authorities said.

The blasts occurred in the car park of a residential compound of Royal Dutch Shell, while the other was on a perimeter wall of a compound of Italian oil company Agip.

There was no immediate impact on oil production.

“The other two bombings were directed at Shell … and Agip,” the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said in an email to the media adding that a third planned bombing was canceled to avoid high civilian casualties.

The group said the bombs were a “cocktail of military and commercial explosives” and triggered by cellphone.

The group had earlier warned that it was about to detonate three car bombs in strategic locations across the Niger Delta. It reiterated its warning to oil workers to stay away from the delta and threatened more attacks.

“Attacks against oil industry targets will increase, be carried out without warning and with extreme ruthlessness,” the email said.

The bombings come a day after the ruling People’s Democratic Party chose an ethnic Ijaw from the Niger Delta, Bayelsa State Governor Goodluck Jonathan, as the vice presidential candidate for elections next year.

Analysts said the surprise choice could be an attempt to address complaints of marginalisation by the ethnic group which predominates in Nigeria’s southern oil swamps.

KIDNAPPINGS

The MEND is currently holding four foreign oil workers — three Italians and one Lebanese — abducted 11 days ago during a raid on Agip’s Brass oil export terminal in Bayelsa state.

It has said it plans to keep the hostages over Christmas in the pursuit of demands including greater regional control over the delta’s huge energy resources.

The faceless group first made headlines with a series of crippling attacks on oil facilities in February, which forced Royal Dutch Shell to pull out of the western delta, cutting Nigerian oil exports by a fifth.

MEND detonated two car bombs earlier this year, one in a military barracks in Port Harcourt and another near an oil refinery in Warri, but their impact was limited.

The Niger Delta produces all of Nigeria’s 2.4 barrels of oil per day but the industry has been plagued by violent attacks, kidnappings and smuggling of crude for several years.

Resentment against the oil industry is fed by lawlessness, poverty and widespread neglect in the inaccessible wetlands region almost the size of England.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved

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