Man Shot, Injured in Attack on Shell Nigeria Oil Unit

YENAGOA, Nigeria Dec 15, 2006 (AP)

Armed men who attacked a Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB) oil complex overnight fled Friday, taking three Nigerian hostages, shooting a man and forcing the oil giant to halt 12,000 barrels a day of production.

The attackers kidnapped a soldier, an administrative officer and a chef who works at a base that houses staff and stores equipment in Oporoma in the southern state of Bayelsa, said Joshua Benemesia, a traditional chief who has mediated hostage negotiations in the oil-rich delta region.

At least one navy officer was shot in the leg during the attack and badly wounded, Benemesia said.

The attackers also overran an adjacent flow station - a facility where oil pipelines converge - but withdrew after several hours, Benemesia said.

Shell officials had earlier confirmed the station was occupied. Shell spokesman Bisi Ojediran said it had been shut down as a precaution, cutting production by 12,000 barrels of oil a day.

Scores of oil workers - mostly local Nigerians -typically live in such compounds. Ojediran declined to say how many people had been in the facility.

Attacks on pipelines and oil facilities have cut Nigeria's usual daily output of 2.5 million barrels by about a quarter this year.

Bayelsa Police Commissioner Hafiz Ringim said earlier that military authorities were planning to regain control of the oil complex.

Attacks have become common in the southern river delta of Africa's largest crude oil producer. Assailants have ranged from militants saying they're fighting for the freedom of their imprisoned leaders and a greater share of oil wealth to criminal gangs looking for a quick ransom from hostages.

Benemesia - head of a government-funded group that is attempting to curb attacks in Bayelsa - said he hadn't seen the assault himself, but had talked to members of his group at the scene. He didn't have exact details on the number of attackers involved but said there were around 14.

The group called itself the Niger Delta Freedom Fighters, Ojediran said. He didn't say if the previously unheard of group had made any specific demands.

Nigeria is the fifth-largest supplier of oil to the U.S., and attacks in the Niger river delta have often moved world oil markets.

This latest incident occurred as the oil-exporting cartel OPEC wrapped up a meeting in Nigeria's capital, Abuja. On Thursday, the group said it planned to output cut in early 2007, pushing oil prices above $62 a barrel.

Copyright (c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.