Nigeria militants turn against each other in delta

Nigerian militants clashed with each other in the restive Niger Delta, a military spokesperson said on Friday, highlighting the complex security situation in the oil-rich region.

Two militant factions with close links to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) exchanged gunfire on Thursday at Harristown in Rivers state, a village known to be a battleground for the lucrative trade in oil theft, more commonly known as oil bunkering.

Mend, a loose coalition of militant groups that has declared an “oil war” against the oil industry and military, has launched attacks on energy installations every day this week.

Oil output in the world’s eighth largest oil exporter has fallen by 150 000 barrels per day and Royal Dutch Shell said the violence would likely weigh on its earnings.

The oil market, which has largely focused on the fall-out from the credit crisis, found some support from Nigeria’s deteriorating security situation. Prices traded above $100 on Friday.

Turf battle
A private security source said Thursday’s fighting over oil turf was between gunmen loyal to rival factional leaders Farah Dagogo and Soboma George.

Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, spokesperson for the military taskforce in Rivers state, said no one was killed in the clashes and no security forces were involved.

“It is our policy not to intervene in inter-cult skirmishes except where it is about to degenerate as to affect innocent people and their properties,” Musa said.

The two groups fought each other several times this summer, killing more than 10 people.

Militants say they are fighting for greater development and a better living environment after decades of neglect in the delta.

But the loyalties of many militants are largely dependent on who controls oil bunkering in the restive region.

Some estimates put the amount of crude stolen from the region at 100 000 barrels per day, equivalent to about $10-million daily at current prices.

Militants have mostly focused its attacks on Shell-operated installations, sabotaging their pipelines, gas plants and flow stations.
Some Chevron facilities have also been targeted.

A Shell spokesperson said the violence would likely affect quarterly earnings, but would not elaborate.

In the most recent attack, Mend said it used explosives to sabotage a Shell oil pipeline at the Cawthorne Channel in Rivers state late on Thursday.

But a military spokesman on Friday denied such an attack.—Reuters

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