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16 Sep 2008 09:45
Nigerian militants launched assaults on two oil installations in the Niger Delta in the heaviest fighting there in two years, militants and security sources said on Tuesday.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), responsible for attacks that have cut a fifth of Nigeria’s output since early 2006, attacked a Royal Dutch Shell oil pipeline and a Chevron-operated oilfield late on Monday and early on Tuesday morning.
But a military spokesperson dismissed Mend’s claims, saying there were no security breaches.
Militant group Mend said “A major crude oil pipeline ... belonging to the Shell Petroleum Development Company was destroyed with high explosives.
The pipeline was located at Degema in Rivers state.
A security source said the militant group also attacked Chevron’s Idama oilfield, but was repelled by security forces.
“As a precaution, the company has evacuated its offshore personnel,” the source said.
Shell and Chevron officials were not immediately available for comment.
Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, spokesperson for the military task force in Rivers state, said there were no successful militant attacks in the state since early on Monday.
“No facility, national asset or military location was attacked in our area of responsibility,” Musa said.
Some security sources in the oil industry estimate more than 100 people may have been killed by the clashes, which have spread to at least seven villages in Rivers state.
The military says militants have incurred “heavy losses” but have declined to elaborate. Mend says at least 29 people, most of them soldiers, have died.
Militants have bombed pipelines, platforms, gas plants and oilfields, shutting up to 115 000 barrels per day of oil production in the last four days, government officials said.
The violence has prompted Shell to reduce the number of employees at some of its Nigerian oilfields. An industry source said nearly 100 staff have been evacuated.
Meanwhile, Mend also said it would soon release two South African hostages it rescued from pirates.—Reuters, AFP
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