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Villagers Attack Nigerian Oil Installation

Nigerian officials say gunmen and angry villagers overran two oil facilities in separate incidents in Nigeria's troubled Niger Delta. Sarah Simpson reports for VOA from Lagos the attacks forced a cut in oil production - already slashed by 25 percent as a result of unrest.

Gunmen remain in control of an oil facility operated by Italian oil giant ENI where they are holding 16 workers and 11 soldiers. Production was disrupted when gunmen attacked early Sunday. Some workers and 40 soldiers originally at the site, were able to flee.

It was not immediately clear why the gunmen staged the attack.

Last week a clash between soldiers and gunmen in the area left a number of fighters dead.

In a separate incident, officials said hundreds of villagers descended on an oil flow station run by U.S. oil company Chevron, forcing a 42,000 - barrel a day cut in production.

Police said the villagers, who have left the site, were angry over the company's failure to clean up a recent oil spill. Full production has yet to resume.

The Niger Delta is the source of Nigeria's vast oil wealth, but a rising tide of violence and hostage taking incidents have forced a 25 percent cut in production.

President Umaru Yar'Adua took office in May promising action to resolve the delta crisis. Last week, a prominent militant leader was released from jail and recently a number of militant groups promised to curtail attacks on oil facilities to allow time for dialogue with the new government.

The militants say they want communities in the delta to receive a greater share of the oil wealth. Despite the region's vast natural resources, residents are some of the poorest people in the world, with meager access to health care or clean drinking water.

Not all attacks on oil facilities or hostage takings are carried out by militant groups. Many are the work of criminal gangs out to profit from ransom payments or illegally siphoned crude.