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Reuters: Communal clashes kill at least 7 in Nigerian delta

EXTRACT: Ledum Mitee, head of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), said the underlying cause of the tension between Mogho and Bodo was a dispute over the award of contracts by oil major Shell for cleaning up oil spills in the area.

THE ARTICLE

ABUJA, Feb 23 (Reuters) – At least seven people have been killed in clashes between fighters from two communities in the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria sparked by the murder of an elderly woman, human rights activists said on Friday.

Trouble started when the corpse of the woman from Mogho community in the Ogoni area of Rivers state was found in farmland on Wednesday. Mogho immediately blamed Bodo, a neighbouring community, for the woman’s death.

“The Mogho people set up a roadblock and started stopping people from Bodo and forcing them out of their cars. They killed one of them on Thursday,” said a local activist who did not wish to be named because he has contacts among the fighters.

“So today the warriors from Bodo have taken over Mogho. They have killed at least six people and they are burning down the community. It’s very serious. If it doesn’t stop the whole place will be destroyed,” he said.

“The problem is that communities in this area all have their private armouries and militias and the slightest thing can provoke violence.”

Rivers state police commissioner Felix Ogbaudu, who could not confirm the death toll, said the situation was now under control.

Ledum Mitee, head of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), said the underlying cause of the tension between Mogho and Bodo was a dispute over the award of contracts by oil major Shell for cleaning up oil spills in the area.

“They have been arguing over who should do what, so when one of the communities discovered a body on a farm with signs of ritual killing, they believed the rival community was responsible. That sparked off the clashes,” said Mitee.

Shell has not produced oil from the Ogoni area for more than a decade after it was driven out because of MOSOP activism, but it is still embroiled in disputes over oil spills.

Ogoni is just one of many parts of the Niger Delta that are plagued by communal violence.

The lawless wetlands region, which produces all Nigeria’s oil, has also seen a surge in violent crime and in militant attacks on the oil industry. Production is down by a fifth, thousands of expatriate workers have fled in the past year, and eight foreigners are being held hostage by armed groups. (Additional reporting by Tume Ahemba in Lagos)

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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