Nigerian army rejects accusation of deadly attack

Nigeria’s most prominent militant group on Monday accused the military of killing 12 civilians in a boat attack in the restive Niger Delta, but the army said nobody was hurt in such an incident.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), responsible for attacks that have cut a fifth of Nigeria’s oil output since early 2006, said soldiers with the Joint Task Force shot at a commercial transport boat in Bayelsa state on Sunday evening.

“Mend will not issue any threat over this painful waste of lives, but will retaliate at the appropriate time before notifying the public,” the group said in an emailed statement.

Lieutenant Colonel Chris Musa, commander of the military taskforce in Bayelsa, said soldiers fired warning shots in the air when the boat approached them but no one was hurt or killed.

“There was no shootout, no incident and the boat and its passengers moved on,” Musa said.

Clashes between militants and the military have become increasingly frequent in the Niger Delta, the heart of the country’s oil sector.

Mend, split between a number of factions, says it is fighting for development and greater local control of the delta’s resources.

But the breakdown of law and order in the region has allowed criminal gangs to thrive by kidnapping for ransom and stealing crude oil.

Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua, under intense pressure to bring order to the Niger Delta, named new heads of the army, navy and air force on Wednesday in his first major military shake-up since taking office more than a year ago.—Reuters

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