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Search starts after attack, Nigerian officials report

Search starts after attack, Nigerian officials report

Troops began a search-and-rescue mission yesterday for Nigerian soldiers missing after militants ambushed a military-escorted supply convoy in the restive, oil-rich south, officials said.
Brigade General Alfred Ilhogo confirmed the late-Wednesday attack on the convoy bringing provisions to Agip, a subsidiary of Italian oil company Eni SpA, in the Niger Delta region, where much of the crude in Africa's largest producer is pumped.
He had no casualty figures, but said some soldiers were missing after the attack and that rescue operations had been launched yesterday.
"I can't tell you if there have been any fatalities yet," he said of the attack. "There was an engagement and there were some soldiers missing."
A lower-ranking officer, who was not cleared to speak to the media, said anonymously that nine out of 11 soldiers escorting the convoy had failed to return to base.
The convoy was on its way to an export terminal about 80 kilometers west of Nigeria's oil capital, Port Harcourt, Ilogho said.
Eni spokesman Gianni Di Giovanni said late Wednesday the company did not have information about the attack. He added that Agip oil convoys often are local contractors.
"Attacks are frequent, and so is their lack of success. We must wait," Di Giovanni said.
A series of attacks and kidnappings in Africa's largest oil producer have cut Nigeria's production by more than a quarter so far this year. Several foreigners kidnapped Tuesday night remained in captivity.
More than two dozen oil workers have been kidnapped this year. Hostage takings generally end peacefully, with the targets returned unharmed.
Chief Sara Igbe said militants attacked a pumping station in his community of Ekulama, about 40 kilometers west of Port Harcourt, sparking a battle with government forces. The Shell station pumps about 70,000 barrels a day.
The military said it had no confirmation and Shell said production wasn't hit.
"There was no damage that we know of," said Bisi Ojidiran, a spokesman for Shell's Nigerian subsidiary.
"Youth from the community and the military resisted the attempts to shut down (the oil facility), and that's when shots were fired," Igbe said.
An e-mail from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta - a major militant group - said they killed nine soldiers and captured two gunboats in an hour and half of fighting at the facility. The group, also known as MEND, said they acted defensively after being attacked by army gunboats and a helicopter gunship.
The militants said they planned further attacks and warned oil companies to evacuate staff in the region.
Witnesses said they saw government attack helicopters racing west from Port Harcourt toward the areas where the two attacks occurred.
Despite the Niger delta's massive energy resources, the vast majority of the region's people are mired in extreme poverty and many say kidnappings and attacks that grab international attention are some of the only tools available to them.
Groups have sabotaged pipelines and oil installations in what they say are protests against the international oil companies and the federal government, which controls the petroleum revenue and divvies it up among Nigeria's 36 states.


Updated : 2020-12-01 20:33 GMT+08:00