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Military repels attack on gas plant in Nigeria

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Assailants attacked a natural gas production plant in southern Nigeria on Saturday, but the military said its forces repelled the onslaught and killed three gunmen.

The region’s main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, claimed responsibility for the attack, launched one week after it called off a monthslong cease-fire. But the group denied any deaths among its fighters.

The military prevented the attackers from entering the production facility in Delta state, military spokesman Col. Rabe Abubakar said. He said three attackers were killed and one soldier was wounded.

Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch Shell PLC confirmed an incident at the facility run by its local unit at Utorogu. The company said one employee and two contractors were wounded in the attack, but all three had been treated and were in stable condition.

Shell did not say if the attack halted production.

Saturday’s gun battle was the latest in nearly three years of violence in the southern Niger Delta, strife that has slashed output from Africa’s biggest oil producer. Oil-industry workers are regularly kidnapped for ransom and energy facilities and transport ships are often attacked.

Amid the tensions, Nigeria’s oil output has sunk to about 1.8 million barrels per day, or about 25 percent less than its capacity of 2.5 million barrels daily.

The militants say they are battling to force the federal government to send more oil-industry funds to the southern region, which remains deeply poor despite its great natural bounty.

The government says the militants are organized criminals engaging in the lucrative overseas trade in crude oil by illegally tapping Nigeria’s vast pipeline network.

Associated Press writer Nathaniel Ibigor in Warri, Nigeria, contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 
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