Nigeria Militant Group Coalition Says it Will End Oil Attacks

LAGOS Jun 15, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswires)

A coalition of militia groups in the Niger Delta Friday said it was ending attacks it has waged on the oil industry, following the release Thursday of its detained leader, Mujahideen Dokubo-Asari.

"We...wish to announce a complete cessation of hostilities against the Nigerian state and her perceived collaborators. We will work in line with the emerging and evolving process," the Joint Revolutionary Council said in an e-mail statement signed by spokesperson, Cynthia Whyte.

Dokubo-Asari was granted bail Thursday by an Abuja High Court, after he been in detention for nearly two years on charges of treason.

The group, of which little is known, said recently it wouldn't release four foreign oil workers U.S. oil services giant Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB) until Dokubo-Asari was released. It wasn't known if the workers, who were abducted June 1, had been freed as a result of the group's announcement Friday.

The Joint Revolutionary Council announcement is an encouraging sign of an apparent lessening of tensions for now. However, the Delta area has a history of false dawns on the end of violence in the region.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, has been the main militant group leading assaults on oil infrastructure and abducting foreign oil workers over the past 18 months in Nigeria.

Around 700,000 barrels a day of oil remain shut-in as a result of the attacks.

MEND has said in recent days it will observe its self-imposed one-month halt in attacking oil installations but said it wants to see additional concrete steps from the Nigerian government that address the abject poverty that is at the root of the violence in the Niger Delta before extending its cessation of violence.

Oil companies also still face rampant crime as locals try to capitalize on the unrest. On Friday, gunmen kidnapped four more foreign oil workers.

The latest abduction of expatriates happened after dawn on the outskirts of the southern city of Warri, said Brig. Gen. Lawrence Ngubane, a military commander in the region.

He said the targets were believed to be three Chinese and one Polish national.

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