/ 18 February 2009

Nigerian troops repel attack on oil compound

Gunmen attacked a compound housing ExxonMobil staff in the Niger Delta but were repulsed after a fierce battle with Nigerian troops, the oil company and security sources said on Wednesday.

About 20 militants used five speedboats in the midnight raid on the riverside compound at Eket in oil-rich southern Nigeria, before security forces fought them off, security sources said.

“Government security forces successfully repelled unidentified armed men in the vicinity of the joint venture’s Eket compound in Akwa Ibom state,” an ExxonMobil statement said, adding that there were no casualties.

The gun battle lasted about 30 minutes according to a security source at the compound.

“Suspected militants numbering about 20” made their way along the Qua River to attack the compound around midnight, the security source said.

Several hundred curious Eket residents gathered outside the compound early on Wednesday.

Over the last few months, militant attacks that have mainly been concentrated on the Niger Delta’s Rivers and Bayelsa states have gradually spread to other nearby states such as Akwa Ibom, closer to the southern border with Cameroon.

For the past three years, armed groups in the oil-rich Niger Delta have staged a wave of attacks and kidnappings against oil-industry and government targets in southern Nigeria. The militants have demanded a greater share for impoverished locals in the region’s oil wealth.

The most prominent of the groups, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), last month said it was calling off a four-month-old truce after an army attack on its base and warned it would unleash further violence. — AFP