Nigerian gunmen attack oil hub

Nigerian gunmen in about seven speedboats attacked an Agip oil export terminal in the Niger Delta early on Thursday, kidnapping three Italian workers and killing a local youth, authorities said.

The gunmen tried to storm Agip’s Brass terminal, which exports about 200 000 barrels per day, at 5am local time, but were repelled after an exchange of fire with soldiers guarding the facility in the remote Bayelsa state.

“They did not succeed in entering the terminal but instead they by-passed it and went to a residential facility where they kidnapped three expatriates,” said Alfred Ilogho, commander of the armed forces in the region.

An Italian foreign ministry spokesperson in Rome said all three hostages were Italians.

A spokesperson for Eni, Agip’s parent company, said operations at the Brass terminal were not affected.

A Bayelsa state government official said youths from a local community rushed to the scene during the attack and one of them was shot dead by the attackers as they fled through the creeks. Several other youths were injured, the official said.

Kidnappings for ransom are common in the Niger Delta. Hostages are usually released unharmed after money changes hands, although this year one British hostage and one Nigerian were killed during botched attempts by troops to release them.

The world’s eighth biggest exporter of crude has been losing more than 500 000 barrels per day, or about a fifth of its output capacity, since February when militants demanding greater local control of oil wealth staged a series of raids on the industry.

Opec meeting

Thursday’s attack comes before Nigeria is due to host a meeting of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ (Opec) ministers on December 14.

The Niger Delta, which accounts for all of Nigeria’s oil output, has been plagued by kidnappings, attacks on oil facilities, massive theft and smuggling of crude, as well politically motivated violence for years.

Many residents of the vast, impoverished wetlands resent the oil industry, which has yielded huge revenues for corrupt governments and for foreign oil firms while bringing them few benefits.

As a result, militancy and crime flourish in the impenetrable region of mangrove-lined creeks and swamps.

Violence in the delta has been particularly bad this year as Nigeria prepares for elections next April.

On Wednesday night, two men on a motorcycle threw dynamite at the campaign headquarters of Bayelsa’s Governor, Goodluck Jonathan, in the state capital Yenagoa, police commissioner Hafiz Ringim told Reuters.

No one was hurt in the blast, which left a crater in the road.
It was the second such attack in Yenagoa in less than two weeks after the local headquarters of the ruling People’s Democratic Party were also bombed.—Reuters

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