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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Nigerian Troops Clash With Group Holding

Associated Press
March 10, 2006; Page A15
LAGOS, Nigeria — A Nigerian militant group holding three foreign oil workers hostage said its fighters clashed with army troops in the country's oil-rich delta region.
A wave of militant attacks over the past two months has forced Nigeria to cut daily exports by 20%. Nigeria normally produces about 2.5 million barrels of oil a day.
Militants have threatened more violence in Africa's biggest crude producer. Besides the kidnappings, militants have blown up oil pipelines and attacked two of Royal Dutch Shell PLC's oil platforms in recent months.
The militants said in an emailed statement that their vessel was attacked Wednesday on the Escravos River by four navy patrol boats, sparking a 45-minute gun battle they claimed left seven government soldiers dead.
But a senior military official disputed that account. The official said militants had seized a vessel laden with gasoline, prompting a distress call after which troops clashed with militants. Four soldiers and a policeman died in the ensuing firefight, during which the vessel was rescued, the official said.
The militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta says it is fighting to win a greater share of oil wealth on behalf of the Niger Delta's impoverished inhabitants, who have remained poor despite the fact that most of Nigeria's oil is being pumped from the swampy region.

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