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Nigeria militants threaten new “oil war” if attacked


Mon Nov 10, 2008 5:26pm EST

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By Randy Fabi

ABUJA, Nov 10 (Reuters) – Nigeria’s most prominent militant group threatened on Monday to renew attacks on the oil sector if soldiers stormed its hideouts, but a military spokesman denied such plans.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said it believed the military was planning to launch an assault on two of its camps in Delta and Bayelsa states in southern Nigeria.

“This will be a big mistake as it will lead to another oil war where we are sure of a landslide victory,” it said in an e-mailed statement.

Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Musa, spokesman for the military task force in Bayelsa, denied any plan to attack militant camps.

“It is always a media war. They are just trying to hype the tension,” he said.

In September MEND staged what it called a six-day “oil war,” attacking oil installations and forcing Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: QuoteProfile,ResearchStock Buzz) to warn it might not be able to meet all its export commitments from Nigeria.

The group has since declared a ceasefire and repeatedly accused the military of trying to provoke it into confrontation.

Attacks by MEND have cut Nigeria’s oil output by around a fifth since early 2006. The country is currently pumping just under 2 million barrels per day, well below its capacity of around 3 million bpd, because of the insecurity and chronic funding shortfalls.

The militant group said on Sunday it would continue to hold two Britons hostage until the British government dropped plans to train Nigerian soldiers in the delta, the heart of the OPEC member’s oil sector.

The two captives were among 27 oil workers kidnapped by gunmen in early September.

At least 21 of the hostages have been released and MEND said it freed four others late on Sunday. But a military spokesman on Monday could not confirm the release of the four hostages. (Editing by Tim Pearce)



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