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Nigerian Troops Continue Raids on Militants' Hideouts

Nigerian security forces are continuing raids on suspected hideouts of militants in the unruly Niger Delta. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports that the Nigerian military hopes the crackdown will stem violence in the region.

Security forces deployed in the troubled Niger Delta say ongoing operations to flush out gangs responsible for the mayhem will continue until the restive region has been purged of all militants and criminal elements.

Army spokesman, Major Sagir Musa, says the authorities are eager to end the protracted crisis.

"It has got to a stage that within one, two or three days, you will hear of expatriates being kidnapped," he said.

"So, we feel enough is enough. We have to be on this operation, more committed, with vigor, to see that we get rid of these miscreants once and for all. Let there be security and subsequently full economic activities will continue to take place," he added.

The crackdown has yielded several arrests and the seizure of illegal weapons.

Major Musa says the troops have taken charge of Okrika, major town in Southern Rivers state and home of a notorious militia group.

"We surrounded Okrika Township and understudied those going in and out," said Major Musa. "If you were going inside Okrika we have to know your mission, at least politely check your boot [trunk] if there is no arms and ammunition, or bombs whatever."

"We try as much as we can not to cause panic, not to intimidate anybody and I think the people of Okrika are happy and even encouraging us, raising the morale of our troops because they feel they are being liberated from the repressive and intimidating tendencies of Ateke and his men," he explained.

Thousands of foreign oil workers have fled the Niger Delta since last year because of militant's attacks on facilities, robberies and kidnappings. More than 100 foreigners have been abducted by armed groups in the oil-producing region since the beginning of 2006.

The Niger Delta accounts for all of the country's oil production and officials say Nigeria lost about $4 billion last year due to reduced output. Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer and world's sixth largest producer, derives more than 95 percent of its foreign exchange from oil.