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CBS News: Nigeria Clashes Leave a Dozen Dead

Nigeria clashes leave a dozen dead, prompt oil staff evacuation, troop rise
PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria, Jan. 16, 2007
DAN UDOH Associated Press Writer

(AP) Royal Dutch Shell evacuated staff from two oil installations in southern Nigeria and the military boosted troop levels in the volatile area Tuesday after community clashes left a dozen community chiefs dead, officials said.

Bisi Ojediran, a spokesman for Shell PLC, said only a skeleton crew remained at the two evacuated pipeline hubs in the Niger Delta region, a vast area of mangrove swamps where all of the crude in Africa’s largest producer is pumped.

Production had not been affected by the fighting, which Ojediran characterized as a community fight. He gave no details of how many staff were evacuated.

“This seems to be an inter-community problem and not a direct attack on the oil company by militants,” he said.

Irejua Barasua, a spokeswoman for police in Rivers state where the attack took place, said that 12 chiefs had been killed overnight Sunday when unknown assailants attacked their boat.

A leader of Nigeria’s military force in the region said troops were being deployed to the area.

“There’s a total breakdown of law and order … and we had to act fast,” Brig. Gen. Samuel Salihu told The Associated Press. He refused to say how many supplemental troops were sent to the area.

Power struggles over local chieftaincies and associated payments from oil companies are common in Nigeria’s oil-rich but impoverished Delta region.

The location of the clashes is strategically important, lying on the main riverine route for oil workers and supplies between oil centers in Rivers and Bayelsa states.

Violence is increasing ahead of April’s elections, when the majority of the current government will have to step down due to term limits.

Stepped up attacks by militants demanding a greater share of oil revenues have cut nearly one-quarter of Nigeria’s usual 2.5 million barrel daily crude output in the last year.

Despite being Africa’s largest oil exporter and the fifth-largest supplier of crude to the United States, corruption and mismanagement has left most Nigerians mired in poverty. Many people see political appointments or traditional offices as one of the few ways to enrichment.

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