Nigerian Militants Threaten to Destroy Pumping Stations

Militants from the Ijaw tribe in the Niger Delta region are threatening to blow up pumping stations that have been seized if the use of military force against their villages does not stop. Flow stations bellowing to Shell, ChevronTexaco and TotalFinaElf have been seized by Members of the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities (FNDIC). They said the action was in reprisal for attacks by the military whom they accuse of siding with their Itshekiri rivals in communal clashes over the past few weeks. Dan Ekpebide, a leader of FNDIC, said combined army and navy troops had attacked several Ijaw communities since last week, killing and injuring scores of people and forcing thousands to flee their villages. "If they continue these attacks we'll have no alternative but to blow up all these facilities under our control," he told IRIN.

In the latest confrontation between troops and the militants on Saturday, five people, including two soldiers and three employees of TotalFinaElf were killed in a battle for the control of two of the company's facilities in the western Niger Delta, army spokesman Col. Chukwuemeka Onwuamaegbu said. TotalFinaElf subsequently announced its withdrawal from the Upomami and Kpoko facilities. Shell, ChevronTexaco and TotalFinaElf have halted about 800,000 barrels per day, which totals almost one-third of Nigeria's daily production.