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Nigerian Militants Say They Attacked Shell After Amnesty Offer

Bloomberg.com

By Dulue Mbachu

June 26 (Bloomberg) — The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the main militant group in Nigeria’s southern oil region, said it attacked an oil facility run by Royal Dutch Shell, hours after an offer of an amnesty by President Umaru Yar’Adua.

An oil well at Shell’s Afremo offshore field was blown up about 11 p.m. yesterday in response to “a punitive” raid by the military on Agbeti community in Delta state, Jomo Gbomo, the spokesman for the group, also known as MEND, said in an e-mailed statement today.

“We’re investigating reports of an attack” at Afremo, Precious Okolobo, Shell’s spokesman in Nigeria, said by phone in Lagos today. The platform had been shut since Feb. 28 following an attack on Shell’s Trans Escravos Pipeline, he said. Military spokesman Colonel Rabe Abubakar said troops didn’t carry out any raids yesterday.

The militant group has stepped up a sabotage campaign against Nigeria’s oil industry since a military offensive against its positions began last month in the Niger River delta that produces nearly all of the country’s crude. Oil facilities run by Chevron Corp. and Eni SpA also have been damaged.

Attacks by armed groups have cut Nigeria’s oil exports by more than 20 percent since 2006 and deterred investments. Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil producer and the fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil imports.

President Yar’Adua declared an amnesty yesterday for insurgents in the 70,000-square kilometer (27,000 square miles) region of swamps and rivers, who give up their weapons and agree to rehabilitation to avoid prosecution. MEND said it will analyze the speech before issuing a response.

In line with the amnesty offer, the military didn’t carry out any “attacks yesterday and there’ll be none today,” Abubakar said. “But that does not meant we won’t defend ourselves if attacked.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Dulue Mbachu in Lagos at [email protected]

Last Updated: June 26, 2009 03:59 EDT

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