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Petroleum News: Agip offices in Nigeria robbed; nine are killed

Onyema Godwin
Associated Press Writer
Camouflage-clad attackers raided an Italian oil company’s riverside offices in Nigeria, sparking a gunfight that left nine people dead before assailants fled by speedboat into the oil-rich delta’s waterways, police said.
The Jan. 24 attack on Agip’s offices in the southern oil center of Port Harcourt was the latest in a recent rash of violence across the restive Niger Delta that has killed nearly two dozen people, cut petroleum production in Africa’s largest oil exporter and helped push up prices of crude worldwide.
The attackers, wearing army-style uniforms, cruised up behind Agip’s riverbank facility in their boat, forced their way into the compound and stole about US$28,000 in cash before the shoot-out with security forces, said Samuel Adetuyi, the head of the police in the city.
Seven uniformed police, a plainclothed security official and one company employee died in the gunfight that ended when the attackers fled in their speedboat back into the region’s labyrinth of creeks and swamps, he said.
Eni has temporarily evacuated staff
Agip’s parent company Eni SpA said in Italy that it “has temporarily evacuated staff and contractors from the area of the base affected by the incident and the situation is currently under control.”
The company said there were others injured, but it was unclear how many. Italy said none of its citizens were among the dead.
A rash of attacks and kidnappings in recent weeks by militia groups demanding the release from prison of local leaders have cut Nigeria’s daily exports of 2.5 million by nearly 10 percent and claimed at least 23 lives.
But Adetuyi said there was no immediate evidence that the Jan. 23 attack on Agip was linked to that.
“I can’t confirm whether there is any link with militiamen,” Adetuyi said.
Much of Nigeria in poverty
Despite the massive amounts of crude pumped from southern Nigeria, much of the region remains in abject poverty and activist groups have been agitating for President Olusegun Obasanjo’s federal government to provide them with a greater share of state oil revenues.
At least 14 other people have been killed in oil-platform attacks and other violence since earlier this year.
Meanwhile, militants claiming to hold four foreign hostages elsewhere in the Niger Delta said the oil workers are in decent health but had been moved deeper into the region of swamps and creeks after the government failed to meet the captors’ demands.

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