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Nigeria militants ‘raze’ Shell oil complex

  • STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nigeria rebels say they will continue “destructive sweep” against oil facilities 
  • Militants say they “razed to the ground” one Shell oil complex
  • MEND warned international oil workers Sunday to evacuate staff from facilities 
  • Largest rebel group in Nigeria has targeted foreign oil companies since 2006

Nigeria militants ‘raze’ Shell oil complex

September 15, 2008 — Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) — A day after declaring war in Nigeria’s oil-rich delta region, the country’s main rebel group said Monday it was continuing its “destructive sweep” against oil facilities in Rivers State.

Rebels brandish their weapons in a show of strength for reporters in the Niger Delta.

Rebels brandish their weapons in a show of strength for reporters in the Niger Delta.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said its militant forces “stormed” the Alakiri flow station complex, operated by the Shell Petroleum Development Company, set fire to the facility and “razed it to the ground.”

A day earlier, MEND had warned all international oil workers to evacuate their staff from their facilities because it planned to “bring these structures to the ground.”

“The foolhardy workers and soldiers who did not heed our warning perished inside the station,” MEND said, referring to the Shell complex.

Shell confirmed that gunmen attacked its Alakiri flow station, gas plant and field logistics base, southwest of Port Harcourt — killing a guard and wounding four others.

“SPDC (Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria) is saddened by this fatality and our thoughts are with the family of the late station guard,” company spokeswoman Caroline Wittgen said in a written statement.

As a precaution, Shell has shut down its facilities in some field locations, but would not give any more details “for security reasons.”

“Shell is aware of the difficulty the security situation places on staff, and continues to monitor developments,” Wittgen said.

Nigeria’s military could not be reached by CNN for comment.

The latest claim by MEND comes a day after it said it attacked oil flow stations and pipelines in response to what it said were “unprovoked” attacks by Nigerian government forces on Saturday.

As part of its operation — dubbed “Hurricane Barbarossa” — MEND said it intercepted 22 Nigerian soldiers at the Soku Gas Plant, Chevron Platform at Kula on Sunday. It said the soldiers were “killed and dispossessed of their weapons,” but the group did not give more details. It also said it blew up several points on the major crude trunk pipeline at Nembe Creek.

A Chevron spokesman told CNN that it has received reports of shooting near its Robertkiri facilities in Rivers State, but there is no information to suggest the attack was directed at Chevron.

No Chevron employee was hurt as a result of the attack, company spokesman Scott Walker said in an e-mail. But he noted that initial reports suggested two contractors “might have died” in the incident.

MEND has also warned of impending attacks against international companies’ oil and gas-loading vessels, warning the ships to “drop anchor in the high sea or divert elsewhere until further notice.”

The rebel group hopes to secure a greater share of Nigeria’s oil wealth for people in the delta, where more than 70 percent of the population lives on less than a dollar a day.

It vowed to continue its latest assault “until the government of Nigeria appreciates that the solution to peace in the Niger Delta is justice, respect and dialogue.”

Nigeria is the fourth-largest supplier of oil to the United States, and attacks by rebels have helped fuel the year-long spike in crude oil prices. It’s one of many factors pushing up the price of gas in the United States, where one in every 10 barrels of oil comes from Nigeria.

MEND has targeted international oil companies since 2006, bombing pipelines and kidnapping hundreds of workers. The captives typically are released unharmed, sometimes after a ransom is paid.

Its attacks on oil facilities have taken a toll.

“Anytime a pipeline is affected, anytime any production gets shut down, you see oil prices jump up one or two dollars a barrel just because there is no slack in the system,” said Jim LeCamp, a senior vice president with RBC Wealth Management, which manages assets for wealthy clients worldwide. 

CNN’s Christian Purefoy in Lagos contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved

http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/africa/09/15/nigeria.oil.war/?iref=mpstoryview

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