Gunmen attack Nigerian oil facility
April 13, 2009
The Associated Press reports that gunmen riding in 18 boats attacked a military houseboat outside an oil facility in restive southern Nigeria, commandeering a naval vessel and killing one sailor, Shell and private security officials said. Four other people were wounded in the attack on military forces guarding a facility run by Royal Dutch Shell''s local joint venture in Nigeria''s southern Bayelsa state, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to prohibitions on dealings with the media. Shell spokesman Precious Okolobo said the attack was on a houseboat near the facility, and that the incident had not caused any oil production to be lost. Military guards frequently live on houseboats outside the oil facilities they guard. A military spokesman confirmed an incident occurred overnight, but had no immediate details. The official said the fighters made off with a Defender-class naval vessel, which is a small craft that the Nigerian military uses to patrol the vast and swampy Niger Delta region. The gunmen frequently launch attacks from the open skiffs that normally carry about 10 fighters. Assaults normally come quickly, with the goal of damaging oil infrastructure or procuring weaponry from the military unit charged with calming the region. If confirmed, 18 boatloads of fighters would be considered a larger-than-normal operation for the gunmen. Numerous armed gangs roam the Scotland-sized region where most of Nigeria''s crude is pumped. Militants say they are destroying oil infrastructure to force the federal government to send more of the industry funds it controls to the oil-producing states. But the government says the militants are common criminals who use a political cover to mask their real activities -- the theft and overseas sale of crude illegally tapped from wells. The militants have stepped up their campaign in recent years, tipping the Niger Delta area into chaos and lawlessness.