Nigeria militants attack pipelines to Chevron


Nigeria‘s main militant group says it has attacked major oil pipelines in the Niger Delta in order to prevent five flow stations feeding a facility operated by US firm Chevron from functioning.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said in an emailed statement this morning the attacks had affected flow stations at Alero Creek, Otunana, Abiteye, Makaraba and Dibi feeding a Chevron facility in Delta state.

Colonel Rabe Abubakar, spokesman for the military taskforce in the Niger Delta, said he could not confirm any such attacks. Nigerian state oil firm NNPC and Chevron also had no immediate confirmation, Reuters notes.

“At about 0200 (GMT) today, fighters from MEND destroyed major trunk lines to effectively put … flow stations that feed the Chevron tank farm located in Delta state out of operation,” the statement said.

The military began its biggest offensive for years 10 days ago, bombarding militant camps around Warri in Delta state from the air and sea and sending three battalions of soldiers to hunt down rebels believed to have fled into surrounding communities.

MEND repeatedly warned of new attacks on the oil industry in response but its threats had so far failed to materialise. Production had continued and global oil markets had last week largely shrugged off the unrest.

The security forces say they destroyed rebel camps in the Chanomi Creek area around Warri and that they are now in control of the ground in the surrounding creeks.

But industry and security sources say it is virtually impossible to fully protect hundreds of kilometres of pipeline running through remote and largely unpopulated areas, leaving the industry exposed to hit-and-run guerrilla attacks.

Meanwhile, Nigerian security forces freed three more Filipino hostages yesterday and extended their offensive against militants to Rivers state where one rebel leader was shot dead, an army spokesman said.

The military has bombarded militant camps around the oil-city of Warri in Delta state from the air and sea and has sent hundreds of soldiers to hunt down rebels believed to have fled into surrounding communities.

Helicopters and planes were used to survey the creeks and guide ground troops to try and flush out militants from remote communities around the port of Warri, a military spokesman said.

“A cordon and search operation … has led to the rescue of additional three Filipinos,” Colonel Rabe Abubakar, spokesman of the joint taskforce overseeing security in the delta, said.

He said the three, who were rescued in Oporoza community in Gbaramatu kingdom near Warri, were receiving treatment at a military hospital.

A total of 17 foreigners and four Nigerians have so far been rescued since the military began its campaign on May 15.

More than a dozen Filipinos were seized 11 days ago from an oil vessel in Chanomi Creek close to Warri.

In a separate operation, troops raided a militant hideout in Abonnema, about 30 km (19 miles) west of the oil hub of Port Harcourt, the southern delta’s main city.

“After fierce exchange of gunfire with the militants, one militant, Nana Sele, suspected to be their leader, was shot dead during the operations and others fled with gun shot wounds,” the military said in a statement.

Nigeria‘s lower House of Representatives passed a resolution last week urging President Umaru Yar’Adua to extend the offensive to other core southern delta states of Bayelsa and Rivers.

The military have vowed to push on with the offensive which has forced hundreds to flee their villages, until 11 missing soldiers, believed to have been captured by militants, or their bodies, are found.

Foreign oil firms have evacuated non-essential staff from the western delta, home to part of Africa‘s biggest oil and gas industry, but production has continued largely unaffected and global oil markets have shrugged off the unrest.

Militant groups say they are fighting for a fairer share of the oil wealth for local people in the Niger Delta, still deeply impoverished despite five decades of oil extraction.

But the armed gangs have also grown rich from the industrial scale theft of crude oil, worth millions of dollars a day, and the line between militancy and criminality is blurred.

Local authorities handed out basic goods including rice, groundnut oil and soap to hundreds of mostly women and children on the outskirts of Warri on Saturday who said they had fled from Oporoza and surrounding communities in recent days.

Some leaders from the Ijaw ethnic group, the largest in the Niger Delta, have accused the military of a targeted ethnic campaign and say innocent civilians have been killed in the villages of the Gbaramatu Kingdom around Oporoza. The military denies that civilians were targeted.

The heavy military presence has made independent access to villages in the creeks around Warri virtually impossible, making it difficult to assess the numbers of displaced or wounded.