Sat, Dec 23, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Oil firms on high alert in Nigeria after three killed

BANDIT RAIDS The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said it was not responsible, while warning it would increase the intensity of its attacks


Oil majors were on high alert in southern Nigeria on Thursday after at least three people were killed in an armed attack on foreign-owned oil facilities.

Unidentified armed men attacked facilities owned by two foreign oil companies overnight, while a third oil major, which was attacked earlier in the week, starting relocating the families of its staff.

An attack on Total took place at the Obagi residential facility in the southern Rivers State, heartland of the oil industry in the volatile Niger delta.

"In Obagi, we have three deaths among the policemen guarding the facility," a company spokesman at the group's headquarters in France said, adding that no Total employee had been killed.

Armed men also attacked a flow station operated by Agip, a subsidiary of Italy's Eni, at Tebidaba in the neighboring southern state of Bayelsa, a military officer said on Thursday.

Eni said it was "not aware of any damages to the flowstation nor to Agip's personnel."

It made no mention of possible casualties among any other party, saying only that "18 local workers and no expatriates were present at the flowstation" at the time of the incursion.

It was not apparent whether there was any link between the two attacks.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for either attack.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), an armed movement operating in the delta, on Thursday said it was not involved in either incident.

A spokesman for Total said earlier that the attack on his company was not the work of any militant organization but rather that of bandits.

MEND carried out and claimed responsibility for two car bombs on Monday in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, that targeted two other oil majors, Shell and Agip.

The group also threatened to step up both the intensity and the "ruthlessness" of its attacks on oil company targets and made comments that might have been perceived as particularly threatening to Shell, industry sources said.

"We hear they are beefing up security in their premises but if the Green Zone in Iraq can be penetrated, how difficult will it be to penetrate Shell?" MEND said.

Shell on Thursday began relocating the families of its staff from its three residential facilities in the delta -- Port Harcourt, Warri and Bonny -- to a location or locations outside Nigeria. Industry sources said some 400 family members were affected.

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