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Nigeria's Militants Claim New Attack on Oil Field

Nigeria's main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, says it attacked a fifth oil facility in the strife-torn Niger southern Niger Delta. The region has been wracked by five days of stepped-up raids on oil installations since rebels declared an oil war last weekend. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa in Abuja filed this report.

Five days of unrelenting assault on Nigeria's troubled oil industry has slashed Nigeria's daily oil production by more than 100,000 barrels.

Rebels have bombed oil pipelines, platforms and oil fields in fulfillment of their threat to cripple the oil industry. Militants are contemplating extending their violent campaign to two more key oil producing states, Bayelsa and Delta, as well as offshore facilities.

The latest run of violence was in response to a military raid on Saturday against a militant camp in Rivers state.

The fighting, which started from Alakiri, near the main oil city of Port Harcourt, appears to have spread to other villages.

Private security sources and analysts are reporting up to 100 deaths in the clashes. A representative of the Nigerian Red Cross in the region, Chika Onah, says the organization received distress calls for medical assistance from some of the affected communities but could not offer any help because it was too dangerous to venture out into the creeks.

"The issue of the Niger Delta, there is criminality to the whole issue," said Onah. "It is not just about the struggle. We are there and want to help, we have to be very careful."

"If they [militants] can kidnap a 12-month old baby, kidnap about 60 something years old mother, we don't know who could be next. We can't go to the creeks, but I know the civilian populations are suffering," he added.

The militant group which says it is fighting for a greater share of the region's oil wealth has waged a series of violent attacks on the oil industry since early 2006.

In the past two years the region has witnessed numerous kidnappings targeting foreign oil workers by those now referred to as criminal gangs.

President Umaru YarAdua has made resolving the Niger Delta crisis a priority, but critics say he has been slow in tackling the main grievances of the inhabitants, which include pumping more money into the region for development and the release of a prominent rebel leader.