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AP Worldstream: Militants say exploded car bomb at military base in Nigerian oil hub

Militants say exploded car bomb at military base in Nigerian oil hub
AP Worldstream; Apr 20, 2006

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Ethnic militants fighting government forces in Nigeria's southern oil region said they exploded a car bomb at a military base in the city of Port Harcourt, the main hub of the country's oil industry.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said in an e-mail statement that its fighters in the city detonated a remote-controlled car bomb inside the Bori military barracks in the city just before 8 p.m. (1900 GMT) Wednesday.

“The act was symbolic rather than strategic,” and a warning to the Nigerian military and oil companies, the group said. It reported no casualties.

Residents of the area said they heard loud explosions followed by gunfire in Port Harcourt on Wednesday evening. Military and police officials were not immediately available for comments.

Attacks on oil installations since January in the main oil-producing Niger Delta claimed by the movement have cut more than 20 percent of Nigeria's daily oil exports of 2.5 million barrels and helped drive up world oil prices.

The movement claims to be fighting for the interests of the mainly ethnic Ijaw inhabitants of the Niger Delta, a 70,000-square-kilometer (40,000-square-mile) region of swamps, rivers and creeks that remains deeply impoverished despite sitting on most of the oil resources of Africa's leading oil exporter.

During attacks on oil installations operated by Royal Dutch Shell in January and February the group seized a total of 13 foreign oil hostages. All the hostages were later released unharmed, with the last three freed after five weeks on Jan. 27.

President Olusegun Obasanjo has rejected the group's demands for the release of a jailed militia leader accused of treason and a former oil state governor held on corruption charges. The movement also wants Shell to pay US$1.5 billion (A1.2 billion) to a group of Ijaw communities for environmental pollution as ordered by parliament. Shell is challenging the order in the courts.

Obasanjo on Tuesday unveiled a plan to create thousands of jobs and bring infrastructure development to the region he acknowledges was neglected by successive Nigerian governments.

The militant group has rejected the plan, saying its target is to achieve local control of the oil that is the mainstay of Nigeria's economy.

“What we have demanded for, and now, is the control of our resources which the Nigerian government has so far ignored,” the group said and warned oil companies that it will step up its attacks.

“We wish to restate our warnings to oil companies still operating in the Niger Delta, more especially workers for such companies, to leave while they can,” the movement said.

Nigeria is Africa's leading oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil imports.

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