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[Published: Saturday September 13 2008]

Nigerian militants declare oil war

Abuja,14 Sept-(ANA)- Nigeria'smost prominent militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the NigerDelta (MEND) has declared an "oil war" in the restive Niger Deltaafter two days of major gunbattles with security forces.

TheMovement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), responsible forattacks that have cut a fifth of the OPEC member's oil output, repeated itswarning for all oil workers to evacuate the delta and expanded its threat tooil vessels.

"Theoperation will continue until the government of Nigeria appreciates that thesolution to peace in the Niger Delta is justice, respect and dialogue,"MEND said in an emailed statement.

The groupsaid it had already attacked flow stations and oil pipelines, including aChevron-operated platform in Kula. It said 22 Nigerian soldiers had beenkilled, but this could not be independently verified.

A Chevronofficial confirmed one of its oil platforms was attacked by militants onSunday, but production had already been shut down due to pipeline problemsstemming from a previous attack in late July.

Asecurity source said militants also attacked a Shell-operated gas plant inSoku. A Shell spokeswoman could not immediately comment.

Amilitary spokesman said no oil facilities were affected by two days of heavyfighting.

LieutenantColonel Sagir Musa, spokesman for the military task force in Rivers state, saidmilitants attacked several locations early Sunday morning in retaliation forwhat it said were heavy losses in fighting the previous day. He declined tospecify how many were killed.

"Therewere heavy casualties on the part of the militants. They are losingground," Musa said. "We are hopeful they will give up the fight verysoon."(ANA)

FA/ANA/14September 2008---

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