April 30, 2006

Nigeria bomb destroys 5 oil trucks, no casualties

By Segun Owen

WARRI, Nigeria (Reuters) - A car bombing in the Nigerian
oil city of Warri, claimed by militants whose attacks have cut
oil exports by a quarter, destroyed at least five tanker
trucks, a Reuters witness said on Sunday.

The blast late on Saturday night in a truck park close to a
refinery sent debris flying 100 meters away. There were no
reports of casualties and drivers at the park on Sunday said
the area would have been deserted the night before.

Police and army spokesmen could not be reached for comment.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta
(MEND), which demands more local control over the southern
delta's oil wealth, said it had used a mobile phone to detonate
30 kg (66 lb) of dynamite in the bombing.

It said the attack was a warning to all people working in
the oil industry in Nigeria. It also made specific threats
against China which has just signed a major oil deal with
Africa's top oil producer.

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

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.

The use of car bombs is unusual in Nigeria but it was
MEND's second such attack in nine days after a bombing close to
an army barracks in Port Harcourt, a major city in a different
part of the Niger Delta. That attack killed two civilians.


Soldiers guarded the site of the Warri explosion on Sunday
and it was impossible to get close, but from a distance the
blackened carcasses of five tanker trucks were visible.

The explosion, which was heard 4 km (2.5 miles) away,
shattered the windows of the drivers' office 100 meters away
and flung a chunk from one of the vehicles into the building
where it crashed through a wall.

The Warri refinery has not been functioning for several
months and the tanker trucks were empty at the time of the
blast, apparently helping avoid a major fire.

MEND said the bombing was a final warning to oil workers
and future attacks would be directed against individuals.

"We have resolved to take our campaign out of the creeks
(so) that every Nigerian may feel the true pains of the Niger
Delta peoples," it said in an e-mail sent to the media.

It was referring to the mangrove-lined creeks of the delta
where many oil installations are located and where militant
attacks, acts of sabotage and crude oil theft are frequent.

"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," MEND said.

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.

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