Global Processing

Nigerian militants claim pipeline attack

May 27, 2008
According to the Associated Press, militants said they destroyed an oil pipeline recently in Nigeria''s petroleum-producing region and killed 11 soldiers in an ensuing gunbattle with security forces. The government denied any troops had died.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta says it attacked the pipeline, operated by a Royal Dutch Shell PLC joint venture, early Monday.

The group says its fighters later battled troops moving in boats in the waterways of the southern oil region. The claims could not immediately be verified.

Shell officials said it was investigating the reports.

A military spokesman, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, said a blast had been reported in the area near the so-called flow station, and it was suspected that “miscreants” had used explosives to trigger the blast.

Government officials commonly describe militants as "miscreants," seeking to deny them any political credibility.

The militants said a boat carrying members of the military task force sent to police the delta''s vast network of waterways crossed paths with the militants after they blew up the pipeline, sparking the firefight. The militants said they took the dead troops'' weapons and ammunition, then dynamited and sank the military boat.

Musa said, however, that no military forces had been guarding the oil installation overnight, and no armed encounters were reported.

If confirmed, the attacks would stand as an unusually deadly engagement between militants and security forces. Militants and criminals who ride in outboard engine-powered skiffs operate nearly with impunity in the shallow and twisting creeks, which the military is prevented from entering by the larger size of their watercraft. The militants mostly avoid the patrols, and armed engagement is relatively rare.

The militants have stepped up their activities since one of their putative leaders was arrested and charged with treason and terrorism. A series of pipeline bombings has trimmed oil output in Africa''s biggest producer, helping send crude prices to historical highs.