An “oil war” against foreign-owned oil compagnies working in the Niger Delta (photo), has been declared by Nigeria’s main militant group.
On Sunday, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) said it had launched “hurricane Barbarossa” and destroyed flow stations and oil pipelines, killing 22 Nigerian soldiers.
Mend said it was launching the “war” after government troops attacked one of its positions a day earlier with aerial and marine forces.
One of Chevron’s oil platforms was attacked by rebels on Sunday, confirmed the oil company.
“There was an attack on a platform already shut down due to pipeline problems”, an official said.
“There were heavy casualties on the part of the militants”, said Lieutenant-Colonel Sagir Musa, a military spokesman for the task force in Rivers state.
“We are hopeful they will give up the fight very soon.”
He added that two days of heavy fighting hadn’t affected any oil facilities.
Since 2006, a fifth of Nigeria’s oil production has been halted by violence in the Niger Delta, the centre of the Opec member’s oil sector.
Most of Nigeria’s oil output of two million barrels per day comes from the Niger Delta, making it the world’s eight biggest oil exporter.
Dr Muhammed Ali Zainy, a senior analyst for the centre for Global Energy studies, told Al Jazeera: “Recently Opec reduced production by about 520,000 barrels per day but this did not stop the sliding price of oil.”
“This means that the demand for oil is faltering and that the world economy is weak, therefore any dent in Nigerian oil production would not have a big impact on the market”, he said.
On Saturday, oil firms in the Niger Delta have been warned by Mend members to withdraw their workers in the next 24 hours, or face a “hurricane” of retaliation following a major gun battle with security forces earlier in the day.
In saturday’s fighting, security forces used helicopters, jet fighters and more than 20 gunboats, said Mend.
The clashes involved soldiers from the army, navy and air force, said a security source.
Mend began blowing up oil pipelines and kidnapping foreign workers in early 2006 and in the region, insecurity has cut the West African country’s output by around a fifth. All that helped push up oil prices.
Numerous oil companies are operating in the Niger Delta, including Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, Total, Eni, and Chevron.