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The Guardian: Threat to oil tankers after Nigerian rebels kidnap foreigners

Rory Carroll , Africa correspondent
Monday February 20, 2006
Militants in the Niger delta threatened to escalate their campaign against oil exports yesterday by firing rockets at international tankers. The warning came a day after nine foreign oil workers were abducted in a series of raids which forced the closure of an oil platform and halted the flow of at least 500,000 barrels of crude.
A leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, a group hostile to Nigeria's government and multinational oil corporations, told the Associated Press that tankers would be targeted. “We'll use our rockets on the ships to stop them from taking our oil,” said the man, who gave his name as Efie Alari.
Dozens of militants were involved in Saturday's attacks, which started with a pre-dawn raid on a barge on the Forcados estuary operated by Willbros, a Houston-based oil services company laying a pipeline for Royal Dutch Shell. Three Americans, two Egyptians, two Thais, one Briton and one Filipino were abducted. The Briton was named as John Hudspith.
Most previous abductions have ended with hostages being released unharmed within a few days or weeks. Recently the militants have hardened rhetoric against oil companies, accusing them of collaborating with a corrupt government.
In addition to closing the Forcados oil loading platform, which usually moves out 400,000 barrels a day, Shell evacuated an oil platform off the Atlantic coast, shutting off an additional 115,000 barrels a day.
The militants' spokesman said the attacks were retaliation for assaults last week by Nigerian army helicopters.
The president, Olusegun Obasanjo, held an emergency meeting with security chiefs and Shell executives.

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