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BLOOMBERG: Nigeria Militants Report Oil Pipeline Attack (Update1)

Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) — Nigerian militants who held four oil workers hostage last month said they attacked an oil pipeline this morning in the Niger River delta and vowed more strikes in retaliation for raids by Nigerian military forces.
The militants, in an e-mailed statement today, said their forces destroyed a pipeline at Escravos at 3:25 a.m. local time today. The pipeline, run by the state-owned Pipelines and Products Marketing Co., feeds petroleum products to the northern city of Kaduna, the statement said.
The militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, said it was launching a series of “impromptu'' strikes against oil installations in response to raids by Nigerian military helicopters this week on the Gbaramatu area of Delta state. It said its forces would target all helicopters in the Niger delta and warned foreigners to leave the region.
The group has vowed to cut Nigeria's oil export capacity by 30 percent in February. Royal Dutch Shell Plc's venture has halted 106,000 barrels a day, or about 5 percent of the country's total output, since an attack by MEND on its Trans-Ramos pipeline on Jan. 11. The same day the militants abducted four foreign workers and released them unharmed 19 days later.
“All pipelines, flow stations and crude loading platforms will be targeted for destruction within the next few hours by our units,'' Jomo Gbomo, a self-described MEND member, said in the statement. “This impromptu action is a direct consequence of the helicopter attacks on several communities in the region that has led to death and injury of numerous civilians.''
Expatriate Warning
“Expatriates must realise that they have been caught up in a war and the Nigerian government can do nothing to guarantee the security of anyone,'' today's statement said. “They are warned again to leave while the doors are still open.''
The militants say their aim is to win control of Nigeria's oil riches for the people of the Niger delta. Nigeria was the sixth-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Nations last month, according to Bloomberg data.
Communities in the Niger delta, a maze of creeks and rivers feeding into one of the world's biggest remaining areas of mangroves, are among Nigeria's poorest, a Shell-funded report on the area said in 2004. It cited studies showing per-capita income in the region to be below the national average of $260. Unemployment surpasses 90 percent in some areas.
MEND is also demanding that the Nigerian government release Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the former governor of Bayelsa state, who was impeached and arrested on money laundering charges, and Mujahid Dokubo Asari, a militia leader who is in jail on treason charges.
Helicopter Attacks
Military helicopters departing from the Osubi airstrip operated by a venture of Royal Dutch Shell Plc attacked suspected oil smugglers in the Gbaramatu area near Warri on Feb. 15, killing as many as 20 people, Lagos-based ThisDay newspaper reported yesterday.
Shell spokeswoman Caroline Wittgen would neither confirm nor deny whether the Osubi airstrip, near the city of Warri, was used by the helicopters, in an e-mailed statement on Feb. 16. Shell wouldn't comment on military matters, she said.
“Armed intervention is always a decision for the proper authorities and not for private companies such as Shell,'' Wittgen, said in the e-mailed statement.
When a helicopter resumed attacking the Gbaramatu area yesterday, militants fired on it, MEND said. The attack was confirmed by Nigerian military spokesman Major Said Hammed, Agence France-Presse reported yesterday.
MEND today warned foreign oil workers to leave the region immediately.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Karl Maier in Khartoum at [email protected]
Last Updated: February 18, 2006 02:16 EST

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