Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image Rebels claim Nigerian oil delta attack

 04 Feb 2008 15:54:41 GMT

Source: Reuters

LAGOS, Feb 4 (Reuters) – A prominent Nigerian militant group said on Monday it carried out an armed raid on a navy outpost protecting an oil pipeline hub which killed three soldiers on Saturday.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) denied a statement by the navy that eight rebels were also killed in the gun battle at the Tora pipeline manifold, saying they suffered no casualties.

“MEND carried out the attack. We did not suffer any casualties. That was not the original intended target, but we had to make do,” a spokesman for the group said in an e-mail to Reuters. He did not say what the original target was.

Shell said the Tora manifold, located deep in the mangrove-lined creeks of Bayelsa state, was not damaged in the attack and oil production in Nigeria, the world’s eighth largest oil exporter, was unaffected.

Oil companies operating in Africa’s top producer have been struggling to cope with a wave of violence in the vast wetlands region, fuelled by widespread poverty, corruption and lawlessness.

On Monday, one policeman was killed and two wounded in an attack on their boat heading to a Shell oil facility at Cawthorne Channel in neighbouring Rivers state, an industry source said, asking not to be named.

Shell is producing about 400,000 barrels per day below its full capacity from Nigeria because of attacks and kidnappings by MEND since 2006 that have contributed to a rise in world oil prices.

Rebels are demanding regional control over the Niger Delta’s oil wealth, as well as jobs, public services and compensation for pollution. However, the line between militancy and crime is blurred.

Sabotage and abductions have subsided since the inauguration of President Umaru Yar’Adua last April. Shell has begun to restore its lost output and militants have begun preliminary peace talks with the government.

However, talks have dragged on without any agreement and violence has risen again since the September arrest of Henry Okah, a factional leader of MEND.

The MEND statement said Saturday’s raid was to commemorate five months since Okah’s arrest on gun-running charges in Angola. (Reporting by Tom Ashby; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

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