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UPDATE 3-Nigerian militants launch new attacks in “oil war”

Reuters

UPDATE 3-Nigerian militants launch new attacks in “oil war”

Mon Sep 15, 2008 3:57am EDT
 

(Updates with security sources, oil market, Shell)

 

By Austin Ekeinde

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria, Sept 15 (Reuters) – Nigerian militants attacked a Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: QuoteProfile,ResearchStock Buzz)-operated oil installation on Monday in a third day of heavy fighting with security forces in the Niger Delta region.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta declared an “oil war” on Sunday and warned all oil workers to evacuate the delta immediately, threatening to further disrupt production in the world’s eighth largest oil exporter.

“MEND reiterates its previous warnings to all oil workers in the entire Niger Delta region to evacuate from oil facilities and halt production with immediate effect or they will have themselves to blame,” MEND said in an e-mailed statement.

The militants attacked a Shell flow station on Monday. The fighting has not yet affected the OPEC member’s oil production because some of the facilities attacked seem to have already been shutdown by previous assaults, security sources said.

Oil CLc1 traded at a six-month low below $100 a barrel on Monday.

Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, spokesman for the military task force in Rivers state, said militants in about 10 speedboats attacked the flow station at Alakiri in Rivers state.

“The attack lasted over an hour. Dynamite and bombs were massively detonated by the miscreants,” Musa said. “The situation is being closely monitored and is under control.”

A Shell spokeswoman said it was investigating the reports.

 

CASUALTIES

Musa said militants incurred heavy losses in the last three days and no soldiers were killed. He would not specify the number of casualties.

MEND, whose campaign of violence has cut a fifth of the country’s oil output, said at least 22 soldiers and seven others were killed since Saturday.

It was not possible to independently verify claims from either side.

Two security sources in the oil industry, who did not want to be named, said more than 100 people may have been killed by the fighting, which involved the army, navy and air force.

“This is just the start of a major military offensive in the delta that is likely to continue for the next couple of weeks,” a security source said.

“The military has declined to say how many people have died in fear of whipping up public sentiment against them,” he added.

The Niger Delta is a vast network of narrow creeks and remote villages, and initial reports of fighting are often confused. The military and the militants regularly accuse each other of propaganda when clashes take place.

MEND has also attacked a Chevron (CVX.N: QuoteProfileResearch,Stock Buzz) oil platform and Shell-operated pipelines and gas plant in the last three days.

Chevron has confirmed the attack on its oil platform, while Shell is investigating the reports of sabotage on its facilities.

The deteriorating security situation in the delta, home to Nigeria’s oil sector, is considered to be the biggest hindrance on economic growth in Africa’s most populous country. (Writing by Randy Fabi; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

 

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