Nigeria fighters deny oil raid
Nigerian rebel group denies involvement in attack on Shell pipeline in Niger Delta.
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2010 03:39 GMT
Mend called off its ceasefire on January 30, threatening new all-out attacks [AFP]

Nigeria's main armed group has said it was not directly responsible for the sabotage of an oil pipeline that forced Royal Dutch Shell to shut down three pumping stations in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.

The Movement for the Emancipaton of the Niger Delta (Mend) said they did not attack the Trans-Ramos pipeline that is run by Shell's Nigerian subsidiary.

"Mend was not directly responsible," the group said in an email to Reuters news agency on Monday.

"It was certainly a response to our order to resume hostilities by one of the various freelance groups we endorse," the statement said.

Shell said on Sunday the sabotage had caused some oil to spill into the Niger delta's creeks and that it was in the process of recovering spilled crude.

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"We are monitoring the situation and will issue a statement [on our investigation of the sabotage] when appropriate," Lieutenant-Colonel Timothy Antigha from the joint military taskforce responsible for policing the Niger delta, said.

On Saturday Mend called off a three-month-old ceasefire in the Niger delta and threatened to unleash "an all-out assault" on Africa's biggest oil and gas industry, saying it could no longer trust the government to negotiate demands for greater control of the region's natural resources.

Mend's threat to resume hostilities could not have come at a worse time for Nigeria.

Umaru Yar'Adua, the Nigerian president, has been in hospital in Saudi Arabia for more than two months and has failed to formally transfer powers to Goodluck Jonathan, the vice-president, raising fears of a constitutional and political crisis in the country.

Selling out

Shell said on Friday it was selling its stake in three Nigerian onshore oil licences.

The oil company said it remained committed to Nigeria and the move was part of its "active management" of global interests, but some analysts believe the decision will have been coloured by the country's political environment and continued insecurity.

Peter Voser, the chief executive of the Anglo-Dutch company said recently the company no longer relied on Nigeria for its growth.

Yar'Adua was the driving force behind the amnesty programme last year which saw thousands of armed fighters hand over their weapons.

Community leaders had warned his prolonged absence was stalling the programme and forcing former fighters to re-think their participation.

Attacks by armed fighters and disgruntled community members on Nigeria's oil sector in the past few years have prevented it from producing much above two-thirds of its capacity, costing the country about $1 billion a month in lost revenues.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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