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Nigerian Militant Group Calls for Ceasefire in Oil Region

The most prominent militant group operating in the Niger Delta has called for a ceasefire - and says it is stopping attacks targeting Nigeria's multi-billion dollar oil industry. The announcement marks a reversal for the group, which last week warned oil workers to leave the region for their own safety, after an attack on an offshore oil facility. Sarah Simpson reports for VOA from Lagos.

The group called the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has called for a ceasefire, ending its attacks in Nigeria's oil-rich south effective from 12:01 am, Wednesday. MEND says it called the ceasefire after an appeal for peace from members of the Niger Delta community.

In a statement issued to journalists late Sunday, MEND says it is taking the action to "give peace and dialogue another chance."

The ceasefire is a reversal for the group, which last week staged an attack on an offshore oil facility operated by Royal Dutch Shell. That attack forced about a 10 percent cut in Nigerian oil production.

Following that attack, MEND issued a statement warning oil workers to leave the area for their own safety.

MEND is responsible for the bulk of attacks in the region in the past two years, including blowing up oil pipelines and kidnapping foreign workers. These attacks have slashed Nigeria's oil output at a time of record-high oil prices and booming global demand for crude.

Nigeria has been Africa's biggest crude exporter and sells about half its oil to the United States.

Militant attacks have forced Nigeria to operate significantly below capacity, shutting down at least a quarter of production.

Instability in Nigeria has helped push oil to record highs - about double the price of a year ago.