April 29, 2006

Nigeria militants say explode car bomb in oil delta

By Segun Owen

WARRI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigerian militants said on
Saturday they had detonated a car bomb near a refinery in Warri
in the southern oil-producing Niger Delta, extending a campaign
of attacks that has cut Nigerian exports by a quarter.

No information was immediately available on whether there
were any casualties or damage.

A Reuters reporter in Warri who was 4 km (2.5 miles) away
from the refinery heard an explosion at the time when the
militants said they detonated the bomb. A spokesman for Delta
state said there had been a blast but had no further details.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta
(MEND), which demands more local control over the region's oil
wealth, said the bombing was a warning to all people working in
OPEC member Nigeria's oil industry, and particularly to China.

"We wish to warn the Chinese government and its oil
companies to steer well clear of the Niger Delta ... The
Chinese government by investing in stolen crude (oil) places
its citizens in our line of fire," said MEND.

Earlier this week, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited
Nigeria and signed deals to explore Nigerian oilfields in
return for a commitment to invest $4 billion in infrastructure
to help develop Africa's most populous country.

MEND has staged a series of kidnappings and attacks against
the oil industry in the world's eighth-biggest exporter that
has forced companies to cut production by 550,000 barrels per

This has contributed to recent spikes in world oil prices,
including last week's record high at over $75 per barrel.

The militants, who have abducted a total of 13 foreign oil
workers this year and held some of them for several weeks, have
warned all oil workers to leave the delta and vowed to halt
exports completely. They have now freed all the hostages.


MEND said it used a mobile phone to detonate 30 kg (66 lb)
of dynamite in the bombing. The use of car bombs is unusual in
Nigeria, but it was MEND's second such attack in nine days.

"Our operatives in Delta state in the Niger Delta planted
and detonated one car bomb amidst petroleum product bridging
tankers located close to the refinery in Warri," it said.

The militants have provided accurate details of their
attacks in the past.

The Warri refinery has not been functioning for several
months and no information was immediately available on whether
any petroleum products were on site at the time of the blast.

It was not possible to get close to the area on Saturday
night as Warri, a volatile city with a history of inter-ethnic
violence, is under a near-curfew and it is dangerous to move
around the city late at night.

MEND said Saturday's blast was similar to another car bomb
attack they staged in Port Harcourt, another major city in the
Niger Delta, on April 20. That bombing, close to an army
barracks, killed two people.

A little-known group that first appeared in December, MEND
is a coalition of militias which the government accuses of
involvement in a lucrative trade in stolen crude oil.

But its demands -- which also include the release of two
jailed leaders from the region and compensation for oil spills
-- are shared by many activists in the area, where most people
live in poverty despite the riches being pumped from their

President Olusegun Obasanjo has tried to address some of
the grievances by promising to build a $1.8 billion highway
across the delta, a region almost the size of England, and
create 20,000 jobs. But MEND rejected the initiative.