Nigeria militants claim attack on oil facilities

Saturday, December 18, 2010

LAGOS — Militants on Saturday claimed to have attacked three pipelines operated by the US oil giant Chevron and Italian firm Agip in Nigeria's oil hub.

The Niger Delta Liberation Force (NDLF) said it staged the attacks on Friday in the key oil producing state of Delta. "NDLF has carried out bombings of three oil flow stations in Delta State to draw government attention to the plight of the suffering people of Ayakoromor and environs," said the group in an email statement to the media. There was no independent confirmation from either of the oil firms or Nigeria's security forces. The NDLF is a militant faction believed to be run by a notorious gang leader, John Togo, who the military has been pursuing in recent weeks in the Niger Delta, the country's main oil-producing region. Early this month the military carried out raids in pursuit of Togo in which it said 14 people, including eight soldiers and six civilians, were killed during the operation in the Ayakoromor area of the delta. The group said it was ready to give up arms if government pulled its troops out of the area. "If government is sincere for a dialogue, it should withdraw the soldiers around Ayakoromor and environs and NDLF will faithfully comply with its earlier promises of disarmament for peace to reign," it said in the statement.

The group also said Friday's bombing would serve as "a warning signal to a massive bombing." "This is not a mere threat as NDLF has planted bombs across major oil locations within the creeks and the sea ... ready for detonation," it said, warning its attacks would even affect vessels sailing within Nigeria's waters in the Atlantic Ocean. There have long been murky links between criminals and many of the Niger Delta's self-described militants, who say they are fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenue. Criminal gangs have also carried out scores of kidnappings for ransom in the region.

An amnesty programme last year had reduced unrest in the region and oil output rose to 2.2 million barrels per day, from around a million at the peak of the violence.

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