Militants blow up shell facility in Nigeria

By Stephen Odoi Larbi - Ghanaian Chronicle

Militants yesterday attacked a Shell facility in Nigeria's restive Southern Delta Region, a day after an armed group declared an “oil war,” a military official said.

The most prominent armed group in the region, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which had declared the “oil war”, immediately said it was responsible for the attack in Rivers State, claiming to have destroyed the Anglo-Dutch group's Alakiri station.

The facility was attacked and set alight just after midnight, with “dynamite and other explosives,” but “the attack was beaten back,” Lieutenant-Colonel Moussa Sagir told AFP.

Sagir said an exchange of gunfire, pitted armed men, who arrived in a dozen or so speedboats, against a joint military task force.

MEND said, in an email to the media, that an operation code-named Hurricane Barbarossa, had “razed to the ground” the station.

“Heavily armed fighters, from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, stormed the facility, and have razed it to the ground, as promised,” it said.

“The foolhardy workers and soldiers, who did not heed our warning, perished inside the station. The facility was still burning when we left.

“MEND reiterates its previous warnings, to all oil workers in the entire Niger Delta region, to evacuate from oil facilities, and halt production with immediate effect, or they will have themselves to blame.”

The group said on Sunday that its “war” was in response to what it says were unprovoked aerial and marine attacks, by the army on one of its positions.

MEND has changed the security paradigm in oil-rich southern Nigeria, since its emergence in early 2006 - multiplying attacks, kidnappings of foreign oil workers and sabotage on land and offshore.

It has caused Nigeria to lose one quarter of its oil production, costing Lagos its place as the biggest crude oil producer in Africa, with Angola recently taking that title.

The group says it is fighting for a larger share of Nigeria's oil revenue to go to local populations.

In June, it attacked Bonga, the flagship deepwater field of Anglo-Dutch giant, Royal Dutch Shell.