Mon, Dec 25, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Nigerian car bomb targets Niger Delta governor's office

AP , PORT HARCOURT, NIGERIA

A car bomb exploded outside a state governor's office in Nigeria's southern oil hub, the first time a government installation was targeted by a militant group that has repeatedly kidnapped foreign oil workers and occupied pumping stations run by multinationals.

No one was killed or injured in Saturday's explosion, said Port Harcourt Deputy Governor Gabriel Tony, who was inside at the time.

Africa's largest oil producer, Nigeria has seen its crude output cut by a quarter this year by attacks from criminal gangs and militants seeking political influence. Major international oil firms such as Royal Dutch Shell, Eni and Total operate under tight security and with police guards in the West African country.

Saturday's explosion demolished part of a fence surrounding the building that houses the state governor's office and other major government offices for southern Rivers state. Shards of steel from the vehicle pierced a nearby shipping container.

A major militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, claimed responsibility for the bomb in an e-mail.

The group, which had warned earlier in the day that it planned to set off two bombs, said the other malfunctioned and was reclaimed.

The incident is the first time MEND has directly targeted a government building.

In previous attacks, oil installations and personnel have been targeted.

The e-mail from an address used by MEND said governors in the Niger delta and other political figures "have acted against the interest of the people of the Niger delta, sabotaging all efforts at resource control for selfish reasons."

"We will henceforth carry out attacks against these traitors in addition to attacks against oil installations," the e-mail said.

MEND is holding four foreigner oil workers hostage and has said it will only release them in exchange for militants that have been jailed by the government pending trial.

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