[QODLink]
Africa
Nigeria rebels vow 'all out war'
Armed group set to step up violence in delta region after urging oil workers to leave.
Last Modified: 15 May 2009 17:31 GMT

Violence in the Niger delta has cut Nigeria's oil output by a fifth since early 2006 [File: AFP]

An armed group in Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta region has declared "all out war" against the military.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) made the announcement on Friday after navy gunboats launched an attack on the group's fighters in Delta state.

"Mend is declaring an all out war in the region and call upon all men of fighting age to enlist for our freedom," the armed group said in a statement to the media.

The group has issued a number of similar threats in the past, most recently in late January when it warned of a "sweeping assault" on the oil and gas industry.

Mend had already given oil companies 48 hours to leave the Niger delta, a deadline that is set to expire at midnight local time (23:00 GMT). 

The group warned that all staff and helicopters would be targeted after the deadline.

Military operation

The military said it was carrying out a "cordon-and-search" operation after the hijacking of two oil vessels and a number of attacks on soldiers.

"The military taskforce cannot just fold its hands and allow these sorts of barbaric events to continue"

Colonel Rabe Abubakar, military spokesman

"The military taskforce cannot just fold its hands and allow these sorts of barbaric events to continue," Colonel Rabe Abubakar, a military spokesman, told the Reuters news agency.

Jonjon Oyeinfie, a Mend activist and former ethnic Ijaw youth leader, told the AFP news agency that "a fierce battle" was raging along the Warri-Forcados river, with the army deploying 13 gunboats and helicopter gunships.

Mend accused the military of using aircraft to bombard civilian targets during the fighting, a charge Abubakar denied.

Edwin Clark, a local ethnic leader, told The Associated Press news agency, that civilians had fled into the bush as the military attacked from the air, water and land.

"The military has declared total war on our people," he said.

Oil targets

The area where the fighting was taking place is home to the Escravos export terminal, operated by US oil giant Chevron, and the Warri refinery, which puts out 125,000 barrels of oil a day. 

Violence in the delta has cut Nigeria's oil output by about a fifth since early 2006, forced foreign firms to remove all but essential employees and severely reduced the earnings of the country.

A number of armed groups operate across the region, launching attacks on oil installations and pipelines, as well as abducting oil workers and local officials.

Some are demanding greater autonomy for the impoverished Niger delta or a greater share of oil revenues, while others are criminal gangs kidnapping for profit. 

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
New ration reductions and movement restrictions have refugees from Myanmar are anxious about their future in Thailand.
US lawyers say poor translations of election materials disenfranchise Native voters.
US drones in Pakistan have killed thousands since 2004. How have leaders defended or decried these deadly planes?
Residents count the cost of violence after black American teenager shot dead by white Missouri police officer.
EU's poorest member state is struggling to cope with an influx of mostly war-weary Syrian refugees.
join our mailing list