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Nigerian Militants Mark President's One-Year Anniversary With Attack on Oil Facility


Nigerian militants say they have have killed some soldiers and blown up an oil facility in the Niger Delta region of southern Nigeria. The Nigerian military confirmed the overnight attack, but denied that soldiers died. The militants say they timed the attack to coincide with President Umaru Yar'Adua marking his first year in office. Sarah Simpson reports for VOA from Lagos.

Militants from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, known as MEND, said in a statement e-mailed to journalists they blew up the oil pipeline early Monday.

The Nigerian military confirmed the attack on a flow station belonging to Shell Petroleum Development Company in Rivers State in southern Nigeria. The military denied militant claims that 11 soldiers were killed in the raid.

In their statement, the militants said the attack was to commemorate the one-year anniversary of President Umaru Yar'Adua and his vice president's inauguration on May 29.

At his inauguration as president of Africa's oil giant last year, Mr. Yar'Adua vowed to bring peace to the delta. But he has had little success.

The militants say they are fighting for a greater share of export earnings from crude oil to go to the region that produces it - the six southern Nigerian states that comprise the Niger Delta.

Successive military and civilian leaders have embezzled billions of dollars of Nigerian oil earnings, according to corruption watchdogs.

The majority of residents of the Niger Delta are desperately poor, despite the riches pumped from beneath their land.

Dissatisfaction has increasingly turned violent in recent years. The area is awash with guns.

The Nigerian navy struggles to patrol the labyrinth of creeks and water ways the gunmen have made their base.

Oil prices have steady climbed to record highs during the past two years, helped by the insecurity in Nigeria and the activities of MEND.

Oil prices jumped Monday in reaction to news of the Nigeria attack, even though oil companies had yet to clarify whether output had been affected.

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