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Militants say they’ve attacked Nigerian oil rig, kidnapped one foreign worker

Militants say they’ve attacked Nigerian oil rig, kidnapped one foreign worker

LAGOS, Nigeria — The most powerful militant group in Nigeria said it launched a rare attack early Thursday against an offshore oil rig but failed to cripple the installation far from shore.

A leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta told The Associated Press that several open-hulled boats filled with militant fighters traveled through heavy seas to the Bonga oil field and launched an attack against a rig there.

But the fighters weren’t able to enter a computer control room, which they had hoped to destroy with the aim of shutting down all production from the oil field more than 100 kilometres from land.

The militant leader spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid punishment by authorities. The account couldn’t be immediately verified.

Officials for Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which is a main operator in that oil field, had no immediate comment.

The militants also said they kidnapped a foreign worker from a supply vessel ferrying crew and supplies in the area, but there was no immediate confirmation. Hostages are normally released unharmed after a ransom is paid.

Attacks against offshore facilities are exceedingly rare.

Oil industry officials consider their operations on the high seas much safer than those in the creeks and swamps of Nigeria’s southern Niger Delta, where most of the attacks during two years of stepped-up violence have taken place.

Militant attacks on oil infrastructure have trimmed about one quarter of total oil production in Nigeria, which is Africa’s biggest producer.

The turmoil in Nigeria’s south has helped send oil prices to historical heights, which give the militants more leverage in their drive to force the federal government to send more oil profits to their areas.

Despite being home to almost all of Nigeria’s petroleum reserves, the country’s south is as desperately poor as the rest of the country, which boasts Africa’s biggest population of 140 million people.

Criminality and militancy are closely linked, with many of the militant groups accused of stealing crude oil from wells and pipelines for sale in overseas markets and helping politicians rig elections.

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