Militants In Gun Duel With the Military Near Gas Plant

Nigerian troops clashed early on Sunday with armed militants in the Niger Delta oil region near a natural gas facility run by Royal Dutch Shell PLC, a military official said.

The latest encounter between troops and militants in rising violence in the troubled region occurred in Soku, in the southern swamps of Rivers state, where Shell runs a natural gas gathering facility, military spokesman Maj. Sagir Musa said. No details were yet available on casualties or the impact of the clash on oil and gas operations, he said.

Facilities run by Shell and other oil multinationals working in Nigeria have come under renewed attack since the leading militant group in the delta region ended a self-imposed cease-fire in September. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, accuses President Umaru Yar’Adua’s government of being behind the arrest of one of its leaders, Henry Okah, on gunrunning charges in Angola.

Attacks by MEND and other armed groups in the oil-rich but impoverished delta in the past two years have cut Nigeria’s oil exports of 2.5 million barrels a day by more than 20 percent and added pressure to global oil prices. More than 200 foreign oil workers have also been kidnapped during the same period, with most of them released unharmed.

Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil imports.

 – AP

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