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Nearly 100 Killed in Nigerian Ethnic Clashes


The Nigerian Red Cross reports that about 100 people have been killed and around 1,000 others injured in the latest round of violence in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta region.

Almost 1,000 soldiers have been sent to the Niger Delta, and so far they seem to have managed to impose a relative calm on the area.

But five days of fighting have already left scores dead and hundreds injured. These figures from the Nigerian Red Cross come two days after the warring Itsekiri and Ijaw communities signed a cease-fire.

The Niger Delta governor has met with leaders from both groups to try to foster an initiative to get young fighters from both sides to disarm. Authorities say weapons are widely available in the region and result in high death tolls when violence erupts.

Gun battles have erupted on the streets of the state capital, Warri, and homes have been set on fire.

It is described as the worst fighting in the area since March, when oil companies were forced to shut operations in the region, cutting 40 percent of Nigeria's crude oil output. Their withdrawal from the Niger Delta triggered oil price fluctuations on the international markets.

The Ijaw community claims the Nigerian government is biased in favor of its Itsekiri rivals. The Ijaws say they do not get equal share of the political power and wealth that oil brings to the region.

The tension between the Itsekiris and Ijaws has its basis in long-standing land disputes. According to the Shell oil company's outgoing managing director, Ron Van de Berg, these disputes are being exploited by gangs dealing in illegally siphoned fuel.

This latest bout of violence has renewed the debate on how to tackle Nigeria's illegal oil siphoning gangs, some of which are highly organized. Another problem is that the oil siphoned from the pipelines is not always cleaned up quickly, which in turn attracts impoverished locals.

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