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Nigerian Militants Launch Fresh Attacks on Pipelines


Nigerian Militants Launch Fresh Attacks on Pipelines

Nigeria’s main militant group on Tuesday said it bombed yet another oil pipeline but failed to gain entry into a second facility overnight as the group continues its assault against foreign oil companies in the West African country.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said in a statement that its fighters used explosives to destroy a pipeline operated by the local unit of Royal Dutch Shell PLC. Shell spokesman Rainer Winzenried said the company was investigating the claim, which follows two previous days of attacks by the militant group on oil pipelines and other infrastructure.

Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, spokesman for the military task force in the region, said gunmen also attacked a Chevron Corp. oil platform early Tuesday, but were repelled by security forces. Chevron spokesman Deji Haastrup said only that personnel were being withdrawn from the installation, but he couldn’t say what caused the evacuation.

The militants told the Associated Press they were behind the failed attempt to enter the Chevron facility.

Separately, Col. Musa said the military was investigating reports of a Briton kidnapped in the region. Militants said they weren’t involved in any seizure.

In recent days, violence has flared across Nigeria’s restive Niger Delta oil region with a series of rare ground battles between militants and Nigerian troops, who previously tended to avoid confronting one another in the region’s vast system of rivers and creeks.

On Saturday, the military task force charged with calming the region launched a deadly attack on a militant base camp with landing craft, helicopters and airplanes. The militants have since retaliated by sending raiding parties from their camps deep in the mangrove swamps to target military personnel and oil infrastructure. At least nine militants and several members of the armed forces have been killed, along with civilian casualties.

On Sunday the militants declared that the latest clashes with the military meant the region has slipped into a state of war.

The militants say they have been agitating for the last three years to force the federal government to send more oil-industry revenues to their areas, which remain deeply poor despite five decades of crude production. Their attacks on oil infrastructure have trimmed nearly one quarter of Nigeria’s daily production, helping send oil prices to all-time highs in international markets.

A full-blown civil war, however, would be a nightmare scenario for the oil industry, since large-scale battles could leave the country’s network of wells, pipelines and export terminals in tatters and insecurity would prevent repairs. Some oil industry officials say that daily production could fall quickly to zero.

Crude markets have largely ignored the recent Nigerian unrest as traders focused more on the impact renewed U.S. banking problems may have on the global economy and on oil demand. In electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude futures for delivery in October traded almost $4 a barrel lower at $92 a barrel. (See related article.)

—Spencer Swartz and the Associated Press contributed to this article.Write to the Online Journal’s editors at [email protected]

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