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Nigerian militants free hostages

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Issue: 38 Section: International News Geography: Africa Nigeria

June 15, 2006

Nigerian militants free hostages

by Salvatore Ciolfi

In a nighttime attack on June 7, the Nigerian militant group "MEND" killed six soldiers and abducted five Korean workers at a Shell Natural Gas plant in the Niger Delta. The soldiers were part of a Nigerian security force that has been assigned to protect the Delta's oil production. Thus far, their efforts have not been successful, as increased attacks have cut the region's extensive oil output by 25 per cent.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is an armed organization that seeks to localize control of the Niger Delta's oil wealth and, in the process, send more of its revenues to the region's poorer south. The latter point in particular is reported to be behind their desire for the liberation of Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, a prominent leader jailed last year on treason charges. Dokubo-Asari has called for autonomy for southerners and his release was demanded in exchange for the Korean hostages. It has been reported that the hostages were released by MEND at his insistence, though it is still unclear how, when or where he made contact.

This is not the first time the group has been involved in attacks against oil multinationals: MEND also kidnapped four foreign oil workers on January 11 and nine on February 18. In all instances, MEND has released its hostages unharmed and has in the past publicly stated that it has no intentions of killing those abducted. On this particular occasion, the attack occurred just after midnight, with the armed assailants arriving in speedboats. One member of the group was killed in the raid, which included the burning of a military boat used for security.

A direct provocation of the violence in the region has been Shell's refusal to adhere to a ruling by a Nigerian high court, which ordered the company to pay $1.5 billion to communities in the region that have been negatively impacted by Shell's activities. Thus far, the company has only appealed the verdict. MEND has vowed more attacks in the weeks ahead, specifically targeting "facilities of crucial importance to the oil industry." Currently, Nigeria is Africa's leading oil exporter, exporting 2.5 million barrels daily.

Sources:

Washington Post

The Guardian

The Dominion

Seattlepi.com

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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