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New York Times: Gunmen Kill 2 Police in Southern Nigeria

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: May 11, 2007
Filed at 2:39 a.m. ET

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria (AP) — Gunmen wearing military fatigues jumped from their vehicles in Nigeria’s southern oil center and killed two police officers Thursday in the latest violence to strike the petroleum-producing region, officials and witnesses said.

The attack in the city of Port Harcourt took place near the offices of major international oil and construction companies, said Rivers State police spokeswoman Irejua Barasua.

”The command will not tolerate the incessant killing of policemen,” she said. Seven other officers were killed last month after two police stations were attacked by unknown gunmen.

Eyewitness Alex Bibor said around nine attackers in military fatigues arrived in two Mitsubishi buses.

”They opened fire as soon as they sighted the two,” he said. ”They died instantly. There was no resistance at all.”

The gunmen stole the officers’ rifles before fleeing, he added.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC has offices in the area as well as a large construction firm that had one of its employees abducted earlier this year.

Nearly 100 foreigners have been kidnapped since the beginning of the year in the troubled Niger Delta region. Hostages are generally released unharmed after a ransom is paid. Thirteen foreigners remain in captivity.

Earlier this week, gunmen seized four American subcontractors for Chevron Corp. from an offshore vessel, and militants blew up pipelines leading to the Brass export terminal, cutting production by 98,000 barrels per day and helping push crude prices higher worldwide.

Attacks that began in December 2005 have shut in over a quarter of production in Africa’s largest oil producer, which is also a major supplier of crude to the United States.

Violence has surged in recent weeks since around the time of April elections that international observers said were flawed and the opposition rejected as rigged.

Militant groups say they are fighting for the release of two leaders imprisoned on treason and corruption charges, and a greater share of the oil revenues from their region. Despite Nigeria’s vast riches, the notoriously corrupt country remains poor, with few of its citizens able to access clean water or electricity.

Last month’s national elections failed to calm the unrest after domestic and international observers reported widespread rigging and violence. Several militant groups issued statements saying they would refuse to recognize the new government.

However, analysts say the habit of paying ransoms to militant groups has spawned many copycat gangs who kidnap foreigners for cash and have no political agenda.

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