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Nigerian Rebels Say Fighters Attack Lagos Oil Jetty

Bloomberg.com

By Ed Johnson

July 13 (Bloomberg) — Nigeria’s main rebel group said it carried out an “unprecedented attack” on a jetty used to off- load oil tankers in Lagos, setting a depot and vessels on fire.

Heavily armed fighters attacked the Atlas Cove jetty at about 10:30 p.m. local time yesterday, Jomo Gbomo, a spokesman for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, said in an e-mailed statement.

“The depot and loading tankers moored at the facility are currently on fire,” he said. It wasn’t immediately possible to verify the statement with authorities in Lagos, the country’s economic capital.

The rebel group, which says it’s fighting for greater control of local oil resources, has focused its attacks on the southern Niger River delta, home to the country’s oil industry. It has stepped up a campaign of sabotage since the military began an offensive against its positions in the delta in May.

President Umaru Yar’Adua’s government has offered the group an amnesty, under which fighters in the delta have until Oct. 4 to surrender their weapons, renounce violence and accept rehabilitation. Treason charges against MEND leader Henry Okah may be dropped under the amnesty at a court hearing today, Agence France-Presse reported, citing Okah’s lawyer Femi Falana.

The movement has made the release of Okah a condition for ending its rebellion. He was arrested in Angola in September 2007 on suspicion of gun-running and deported to Nigeria in February.

Armed attacks targeting oil infrastructure in the delta region have cut more than 20 percent of the nation’s oil exports since 2006. The West African country has the continent’s largest hydrocarbon reserves and is the fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil imports.

The attacks have shut plants operated by Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Chevron Corp. and Eni SpA, curbing production of the light, sweet variety of oil favored by U.S. refiners.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ed Johnson in Sydney at [email protected].

Last Updated: July 12, 2009 22:20 EDT

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