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Militant Activity Increases Ahead of Nigeria’s Presidential Inauguration

Kidnappings and sabotage of oil facilities has escalated in Nigeria's crude-rich Niger Delta forcing up the pump price of fuel globally in recent weeks. Analysts say that militants have increased activity to draw international attention to the region before the inauguration of president-elect Umaru Yar'Adua. For VOA, Sarah Simpson reports from Lagos.

The latest abductees are four American oil-workers seized late Tuesday by attackers with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

Earlier Tuesday, militants bombed three pipelines inflicting the worst damage on Nigeria's oil infrastructure for over a year.

Oil prices jumped more than $1 to more than $65 a barrel in reaction to the spike in violence in Africa's largest oil exporter.

Analyst Charles Dokubo of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs says militants are increasing activity to draw world attention to the delta region before the presidential inauguration later this month.

"So far as the militants are concerned, the inauguration of the new president will be a good moment for them to defend themselves that this struggle is continual," he said.

Umaru Yar'Adua won the April election, but the results were condemned as fraudulent by foreign observers who recorded widespread rigging and polling irregularities.

Mr. Yar'Adua is scheduled to be sworn into office May 29, but analysts like Dokubo expect to see more trouble in the delta before then.

"They are going to up the campaign, they are going to take it to a level at which the incoming government will feel that it is a priority matter," he added. "This oil is it, it affects the revenue of the country."

About 95 percent of the Nigerian government revenue comes from oil exports.

Nigeria is one of the world's top 10 oil producers and a major supplier to the United States.

Responsibility for many recent attacks has been claimed by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which vowed in an e-mail to continue targeting oil installations, vessels, and platforms.

The group claims to be fighting for an increased share of oil revenues for the people of the Niger Delta who live in poverty atop their land's oil-wealth.