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Niger Delta rebels ratchet up oil-related violence

    Niger Delta rebels ratchet up oil-related violence

  • Miltants destroy Shell pumping station, pipeline in oil-rich Niger Delta 
  • Deadly battles between militants and miltary; civilian casualties 
  • Militants want government to give more oil-industry money to poor regions
  • Attacks on oil infrastructure have reduced a quarter of Nigeria’s daily production

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria’s main militant group said Wednesday that it had destroyed an oil-pumping station and a pipeline crossing southern Nigeria in a rare daylight attack extending violence in the restive region into its fifth day.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC owns this oil-pumping station, seen in a file photo, in the Niger Delta.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC owns this oil-pumping station, seen in a file photo, in the Niger Delta.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said in an e-mail that it had destroyed the pipeline. If confirmed, it would be the group’s second attack in a 24-hour period.

The group earlier said it attacked an oil-pumping station overnight, destroying the flow station run by the local unit of Royal Dutch Shell PLC after battling security forces protecting the site.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Sagir Musa confirmed the incident, saying that eight boatloads of militants attacked the Shell facility with bombs, dynamite and hand grenades. Shell officials had no immediate comment.

Violence has flared across Nigeria’s restive Niger Delta oil region in recent days with a series of rare ground battles between MEND and Nigerian troops who have tended to avoid confronting one another in the Niger Delta’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 into the mangrove swamps to target military personnel and oil infrastructure.

At least nine militants and several members of the armed forces have been killed. There have also been civilian casualties.

In Wednesday’s e-mailed statement, the militants called for the resignation of a top local government official and for a state of emergency to be declared in the region. They warned soldiers and oil workers that more attacks were planned and named two massive off-shore oil export facilities as potential targets.

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 in the Niger Delta, 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.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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