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Nigerian militants continue to attack pipelines

10 July 2009

Nigeria's most prominent militant group has sabotaged oil pipelines in the Niger Delta region, operated by the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell and the Italian group Agip, further cutting production in Africa's biggest energy producer.

Nigerian militants continue to attack pipelines
Nigerian militants continue to attack pipelines

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said in a statement it blew up the pipelines in a pre-dawn attack in Bayelsa state as part of a campaign to cripple the nation's main industry. Furthermore, MEND admitted that it had also seized six crew members from a chemical tanker Siehem Peace at about 20 nautical miles from Escravos in Delta State.

It was the seventh in a recent bout of serial attacks on oil installations in just under two weeks since the Nigerian government extended an amnesty offer aimed at ending a three-and-half-year insurgency.

MEND had recently attacked Afremo B oil platform of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in retaliation for the alleged invasion of an Ijaw community in Warri South-west Local Government Area of Delta State by the military Joint Task Force (JTF). It also attacked Shell pipelines at Adamakiri and Kula, both in Rivers State in the Eastern Niger Delta. MEND additionally attacked the Afremo offshore oilfields, which it believed were operated by Shell, and which it said were 14 miles from an export terminal through which oil from Shell's Forcados fields was pumped.

The attacks are the first to strike Rivers State, the Easternmost of the three main states in the Niger Delta, since the militants launched their latest campaign of sabotage following a military offensive in the western delta.

Unrest in the Niger Delta costs Nigeria hundreds of thousands of barrels a day in lost crude oil production, resulting in the economy losing N2.2 billion daily. Militants say they are fighting for a greater share of the oil wealth. These punctures in the country’s oil production capacity will hinder its drive to grow its oil reserves to 40 billion in 2010.

Persistent attacks by MEND over the past three years have cut oil output in the OPEC member, the world's eighth biggest oil exporter, to less than two thirds of its installed capacity of 3 million barrels per day.
MEND first burst onto the scene in 2006, knocking out more than a quarter of Nigeria's oil output -then around 2.4 million bpd -in a matter of weeks.

Hoping to put an end to the unrest, President Umaru Yar'Adua said he would offer a 60-day amnesty to militants and criminals in the Niger Delta beginning Aug. 6 2009. But MEND, a loose network of varied factions, has publicly dismissed the amnesty offer.

Nigeria, the world's eighth largest exporter, was Africa's leading oil producer but it is currently neck-and-neck with Angola since the troubles in the Niger Delta started. Africa's most populous country relies on oil for more than 90% of its export earnings.

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