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Nigerian rebels sabotage Shell oil pipeline

 

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Nigerian rebels sabotage Shell oil pipeline

By Matthew Green in Lagos

Published: May 27 2008 03:00 | Last updated: May 27 2008 03:00

Nigerian militants yesterday said they had sabotaged an oil pipeline belonging to Royal Dutch Shell, the latest in a string of attacks that have helped drive oil prices to record highs.

The raids have increased pressure on President Umaru Yar’Adua to show he is making progress in delivering on promises made before his election a year ago. He pledged to find a lasting solution to the insurgency in the oil-rich Niger Delta area.

The latest claim, made by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, Mend, has further heightened concerns over oil supply from Nigeria. Funding shortfalls in joint ventures between the government and western oil companies are also hitting output.

Shell said that after the attack some oil had spilled from its Nembe Creek trunk line, which carries crude to the Bonny export terminal. Some production had been halted to prevent further spillage. Recent attacks on pipelines have dented Nigeria’s exports of about 2.1m barrels a day since last month.

A spokesman for Mend said in an e-mailed statement yesterday that its members had blown up a pipeline in the early hours of yesterday morning in Rivers State, in the east of the Niger Delta region. “Today’s attack is dedicated to the administration of [President] Umaru Yar’Adua and [vice-president] Goodluck Jonathan who have failed after one year in office to ensure peace, security and reconciliation in the Niger Delta region,” the statement said.

Mend said its fighters had killed 11 soldiers and blown up their river patrol vessel. The army confirmed reports of a pipeline blast but denied losing any men.

One of many armed groups in the Niger Delta, Mend has waged an increasingly aggressive campaign, partly in protest against the decision to hold the trial of Henry Okah, one of the delta’s most prominent militant leaders, away from public view. Mr Okah was arrested in Angola last year and extradited to Nigeria. He faces charges of treason and gun-running.

Mr Yar’Adua told the Financial Times this month he hoped to convene a Niger Delta peace summit in Abuja within eight weeks. A summit had been planned for last October but has been repeatedly postponed.

The latest violence has underlined the fragility of the region’s security, despite security generally improving since Mr Yar’Adua took office last May. Some 175,000 b/d of output was stopped in April after militants sabotaged pipelines.

 

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