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Rebel Leader Threatens to Blow Up Gas Plant in Nigeria - 2004-10-01

Talks between a militia leader and the Nigerian president aimed at ending further violence in the oil-rich southern region are in a third day in Abuja. But the rebel leader has accused the Nigerian government of violating a temporary cease-fire, which had been agreed upon Wednesday.

As the talks got under way in the capital, Abuja, rebel leader Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari threatened to move forward with his attack on foreign oil facilities in the Niger Delta region. He said the Nigerian government failed to honor the cease-fire that had been agreed to earlier in the week.

Mr. Dokubo-Asari calls his mission "Operation Locust Feast" because he says the western companies in cooperation with the Nigerian government are invading his people's land.

"Operation Locust Feast is a description of our situation," he said. "The international oil multinationals and the Nigerian state have invaded our land like locusts and they are feasting on us. So, Operation Locust Feast was supposed to celebrate with them in this feasting. As they are feasting on us and ravaging our land, we also want to ravage them."

Mr. Dokubo-Asari says he has told his militia to fire at the military troops patrolling the region and if they fail to stop them, he will blow up a gas plant in the region.

Mr. Dokubo-Asari's movement is demanding autonomy and control of the oil revenues from the region and President Obasanjo said Friday he would take firm action against militants. But he also said the military is just conducting routine patrol operations in the region and has not violated the ceasefire.

Fighting between military forces and local militias in the Niger Delta region has been ongoing for more than a year, but has intensified in recent weeks. The human rights organization, Amnesty International, estimates that at least 500 people died from fighting in the region in the month of August alone.