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Terrorism & Security

Nigerian militants scrap cease-fire, vow offensive

A conflict could reduce Nigeria's oil output, affecting global oil supply.

By Jonathan Adams / February 2, 2009

Militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta on Friday called off a four-month cease-fire with the government, in a move that could plunge this part of Nigeria back into chaos and further disrupt global oil supplies.

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The Associated Press reported that militants from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) vowed to wage a new military campaign dubbed "Hurricane Obama" that would sharply curtail oil and gas shipments from the region.

The ... militants had declared a cessation of hostilities in September after the worst spate of violence in years to hit the Niger Delta, where militants fought rare open battles against the armed forces after years of nighttime sneak attacks and sabotage....
On Friday, the Movement made good on a threat to end the cease-fire if the military engaged its fighters again, saying government forces fired on a camp run by one of its members. The group said it would retaliate with attacks against Nigeria's oil industry in an operation it called "Hurricane Obama."
The militants promised a "sweeping assault" that would "change the face of oil and gas exports from Nigeria."

Reuters said that one faction of MEND, the Niger Delta Vigilante, confirmed an attack on its camp by government forces in gunboats.

"The battle lasted for almost one hour 30 minutes and we were able to sink one of the double-engined boats with all the occupants," said the faction's spokesman, who uses the pseudonym Tamunokuro Ebitari.
There was no independent confirmation of fighting. A military spokesman said he was making checks.

The report added that militants have been holding two British oil industry workers for more than four months, "partly in an effort to dissuade the security forces from attacking."

The BBC quoted a military official as saying government troops were fired on first.

The news service reported last week that a young girl was shot dead by delta militants when she resisted gunmen who kidnapped her brother. The same day, militants released a Catholic priest that had been kidnapped on Jan. 25.

The Guardian, a Nigerian newspaper, reported that militants accused the government of negotiating in bad faith. It quoted MEND spokesperson Jomo Gbomo as saying:

"During this ceasefire, we had hoped the Nigerian government would take advantage of the cessation of hostilities to embrace dialogue and reconciliation but instead, the government deceived individuals into fake peace parleys where they were arrested and in some cases killed."
Gbomo said the latest attack was an indication that the Nigerian government prefers to make military inroads during the ceasefire instead of efforts towards genuine peace and reconciliation.

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