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Nigerian militants halt attacks

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Nigerian militants halt attacks

By Matthew Green in Lagos

Published: September 21 2008 14:10 | Last updated: September 21 2008 14:10

Nigerian militants on Sunday called a halt to a week-long campaign of attacks against oil facilities, raising hopes of a reprieve for energy companies battered by the most intense phase of sabotage since early 2006.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) has claimed responsibility for almost daily raids on army outposts and pipeline bombings in retaliation for an assault by the military on one of its camps last weekend.

The group issued an email statement saying it had decided to declare a ceasefire following an appeal from elders. ”Mend can only speak for itself and will not vouch for the other angry groups that aligned with the operation,” the statement said.

Mend, whose leadership and composition are unclear, has worked alongside various armed groups active in Rivers State, one of the three main oil and gas-producing states in the Niger Delta, to broaden the scope of its attacks.

The group has made similar truce declarations following previous sabotage campaigns in the past year. Attacks have generally resumed some weeks later. The Joint Task Force of security forces based in Rivers State said it was unaware of the cease-fire offer and that its operations would continue as normal.

Royal Dutch Shell, the Anglo-Dutch energy giant, suffered a series of blasts at its pipelines during the campaign – dubbed ”Operation Hurricane Barbarossa” by Mend – forcing it to declare that it may not be able to meet all of its export commitments. Facilities belonging to Chevron, the US major, also came under attack.

The violence has increased the pressure on President Umaru Yar’Adua to show he is committed to fulfilling campaign pledges made last year to focus on ending the conflict. Plans for a Niger Delta summit of militants, elders and other leaders have been dropped. In his latest initiative, the president has promised to create a Niger Delta ministry to help promote a more co-ordinated strategy for dealing with the crisis.


Editorial Comment: Nigerian graft – Aug-11

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

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