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Militants Threaten to Blow Up 11 Oil Facilities

From Associated Press

Ethnic militants on Saturday threatened to blow up 11 multinational oil installations they claimed to have captured in retaliation for government military raids.

Dan Ekpebide, a leader of Ijaw tribal fighters in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta, said his followers took over pipeline facilities belonging to ChevronTexaco, Royal/Dutch Shell and TotalFinaElf on Friday. The companies had earlier evacuated the sites during unrest that has killed scores of people.

The threats came as the army accused the tribal fighters of attacking a TotalFinaElf facility Saturday. Two Nigerian army soldiers and a retired officer guarding the facility were among five people killed, army spokesman Col. Chukwuemeka Onwuamaegbu said.

Ijaw militants said 65 of their ranks died in battles with government troops Friday and Saturday.

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The fighters demanded that the Nigerian military halt raids against their villages. They also insisted that the government redraw voting boundaries ahead of April elections.

The Ijaws, with 8 million people the largest ethnic group in the delta, have long accused President Olusegun Obasanjo of colluding with minority Itsekiris to draw unfavorable voting boundaries.

“We’ll blow up these flow stations and blast the pipelines. We will take Nigeria 20 years backward,” Ekpebide said, without giving details. Witnesses said the fighters are armed with machine guns and grenades.

Ekpebide spoke by satellite phone from an unspecified location in the delta’s Scotland-sized warren of swamps and creeks, where roads and telephones are practically nonexistent.

Six of the captured facilities belong to Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary. ChevronTexaco has three and the other two belong to TotalFinaElf.

A TotalFinaElf spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the capture of its facilities. Spokesmen for ChevronTexaco and Shell said they could not confirm the attacks because their staff had been evacuated.

However, other witnesses, including leaders of the Ijaws’ main ethnic rivals, the Itsekiris, confirmed the Ijaws had captured all 11 facilities.


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