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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
16 January 2006

NIGERIA: Shell evacuates oil platforms after fresh attacks

WARRI, 16 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has pulled workers from four oil platforms in Nigeria’s volatile Niger Delta after armed militants launched the third attack in a week on its facilities.

Heavily armed persons attacked the Benisede flow station in the early hours of Sunday, Shell said in a statement. “The attackers invaded the flow-station in speed boats, burnt down two staff accommodations, damaged the processing facilities and left.”

Troops protecting the Benisede facility came under fire at dawn from the attackers, said Brigadier-General Elias Zamani, commander of a joint military task force deployed by the government to try to contain spiralling violence in the oil-rich southern delta.

A group claiming responsibility for recent attacks has warned Shell to evacuate workers from the region. Oil operations in the region have been disrupted repeatedly by local militants claiming to fight for the rights of the impoverished local population.

Zamani said both the army and the militants suffered casualties in Sunday’s attack but he gave no details. Several national newspapers reported on Monday that at least 13 soldiers had been killed.

Injured Shell workers were taken to hospital while workers in nearby facilities identified as Ogbotobo, Opukushi and Tunu were evacuated on Sunday, the company said.

A group calling itself the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed responsibility for a recent spate of attacks in the region, including an 11 January raid on Shell’s EA offshore platform in which four foreigners were kidnapped, and a subsequent explosion that ruptured a major oil pipeline.

The group is demanding local control of the region’s oil wealth as well as the release of militia leader Moujahid Dokubo-Asari, currently detained by the government on treason charges.

“We want to control our oil and want Dokubo-Asari released,” a man who gave his name as Brutus Etikpaden and claimed to be the leader of the group told IRIN by phone from an undisclosed location. “We have warned all foreign oil workers to leave the Niger Delta in their own interest.”

In an e-mail statement sent to media organisations the group gave the names of the hostages as Bulgarian Milko Nichev, US national Patrick Arnold Landry, Briton Nigel Watson-Clark and Honduran Harry Ebanks.

Shell, which controls just under half of Nigeria’s daily exports of 2.5 million barrels, is operating at a reduction of 106,000 barrels per day due to last week's pipeline rupture.

In December an attack on another key pipeline similarly forced the company to suspend export of large quantities of crude oil from its Bonny oil export terminal for two weeks.

Tensions have been particularly high in the delta since the Nigerian government arrested Dokubo-Asari in September and charged him with treason. He is currently in custody awaiting trial.

Dokubo-Asari was charged after saying in a newspaper interview he would fight for the disintegration of Nigeria.

His Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force has taken up arms in the name of the region’s majority Ijaw ethnic group, alleging that successive governments have cheated impoverished communities of the oil wealth produced on their land.



This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but May not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2006

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