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Nigerian militants attack oil station, kill 1

Nigerian militants attack oil station, kill 1

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Speedboat-borne militants attacked an oil-pumping station in southern Nigeria with dynamite and other explosives Monday, killing at least one guard in the third day of heavy battles between the armed forces and militants fighters.

Fighters in about 10 speedboats launched the pre-dawn raid on security personnel at the site operated by the local unit of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, said Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, a military spokesman in the southern Niger Delta region. He said the militants used dynamite and other explosive devices in the attack in a third day of clashes with military personnel.

Shell said one guard died and four others suffered injuries in the battle, which prompted an evacuation of some facilities in the restive southern region.

No details were given about any effect on oil production.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the region’s main militant group, claimed responsibility for the attack.

It said in a statement e-mailed to reporters that its fighters stormed the facility and “razed it to the ground,” killing workers and soldiers inside. The group told the Associated Press that nine militant fighters had been killed in the three days of fighting.

Since it emerged nearly three years ago, the group has mostly focused on hobbling Nigeria’s oil industry, bombing pipelines in hopes of forcing the federal government to send more revenues to the impoverished oil-producing south.

Large-scale battles between the militants and the military are rare. While the military often skirmishes with gunmen during chance boat encounters on the region’s waterways, it has avoided major attacks on militant camps and other permanent positions.

That has changed in recent days, with the military sending ground troops to battle militants at a base camp deep in the mangrove swamps of the Niger Delta. Militants have struck back, hitting the military at three different sites in two days.

The militants said they had attacked a military outpost in recent weeks, killing 29 military personnel in response to alleged killings of civilians. The government denied that any attacks took place. The accounts could not be independently verified.

The militant group said Sunday that the ground battles in recent days meant the region had descended into a state of war.

The militants, who analysts say are motivated by money as well as politics, say they want more federally held oil funds for their states, which remain impoverished despite five decades of production in Africa’s oil giant. Their attacks have cut about one-fifth of Nigeria’s normal oil output, helping send crude prices to all-time highs in international markets.

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