Mon, Aug 24, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Nigeria rebel group to resume attacks, nixes peace talks

REUTERS , YENAGOA, NIGERIA

Nigeria’s main rebel group said on Saturday it would resume attacks against Africa’s biggest energy industry next month, overshadowing the surrender of hundreds of arms by rebels in a federal amnesty program.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), responsible for attacks that have wrought havoc on the OPEC member’s oil operations, said it would resume its campaign of violence on Sept. 15.

MEND, a loose coalition of militant groups, denounced the hundreds of rebels that have participated in President Umaru Yar’Adua’s 60-day amnesty program, which aims to stem unrest in the Niger Delta.

“The ongoing amnesty program by the government of Nigeria seems to have achieved separating those who still have the zeal to fight for our freedom from those who were in it for the money,” the group said in a statement.

MEND, which declared a 60-day ceasefire last month to allow for peace talks, said it has suspended negotiations with the government.

Hundreds of Nigerian militants earlier on Saturday surrendered their weapons, mortar bombs and gunboats during a public ceremony in the Bayelsa state capital Yenagoa.

The handover by dozens of militant groups was the largest collection of weapons and ammunition since President Umaru Yar’Adua’s 60-day amnesty program began two weeks ago.

“We give up our weapons so that we give peace a chance and for all oil companies and other multinationals to come into our region to develop the place,” Erepamutei Olotu, also known as General Ogunbos, said during a public handing-over ceremony.

Attacks on pipelines and industry facilities along with the kidnapping of oil workers since early 2006 have cost the world’s eighth-biggest oil exporter billions of dollars a year in lost revenues and added to volatility in global energy prices.

At the ceremony, former militant leader Ebikabowei Victor Ben, known as Boyloaf, gave a senior government official his flak jacket emblazoned with the MEND logo.

“As chairman of MEND in Bayelsa state, I hand over this jacket as a proclamation that we have disarmed and stand by our word. We expect the president to stand by his word and develop the Niger Delta,” Ben told a crowd of hundreds that included former militants, government officials and security officers.

Ben was among 25 former militant leaders that surrendered more than 500 weapons, dozens of rocket launchers and mortar bombs and 14 gunboats, which were on display at the ceremony.

Ben, whose group handed over the bulk of the weapons collected on Saturday, has warned that failure to develop the Niger Delta would lead to a resumption of violence.

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