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Nigerian Militants Claim another Pipeline Bombing

Nigeria's Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said on Saturday it had destroyed another oil pipeline in the Niger Delta, the southern oil-rich region. The group has launched a series of attacks on oil facilities and military targets in Rivers state since it declared an oil war last Saturday. Gilbert da Costa has more in this report from Abuja.

Nigerian rebels are stepping up their offensive with the destruction of a major pipeline operated by Shell in their sixth attack in the past week. The main militant group says the raids are designed to halt oil exports. Nigeria is the world's eighth largest exporter.

"MEND will continue to nibble every day at the oil infrastructure in Nigeria until the oil exports remain zero," the group said in an emailed statement to journalists.

Nigeria's state oil company says the country's oil production has fallen by 40 percent due to militant attacks.

According to estimates Nigeria has pumped more than $300 billion worth crude from the southern Delta states, since the 1970s.

But high unemployment in the Delta, environmental degradation due to oil and gas extraction, and the lack of basic resources such as fresh water and electricity have angered some of the region's youth and incited them to take up arms.

Tony Uranta, a Niger Delta analyst and member of the 40-member technical committee set up by the government to offer a way out of the Delta crisis, says the first step to ending the violence would be for the federal government to demonstrate the will to implement a political solution.

"We are confident that if the government shows the political will to bring a political solution and non-military solution to the crisis in the region, it could be speedily ended," he said. "It is a mistake to approach the Niger Delta problem as a security problem, rather than a development and justice problem."

Uranta further recommends the immediate granting of amnesty to all militants and the release of Henry Okah, a rebel leader who is in jail for treason.

"There must be an across-the-board amnesty for all of them that are armed members of the struggle for Niger Delta cause," he said. "The government releasing Henry Okah, government involving Henry Okah and others in the peace and development process."

Clashes between militants and security forces since last Saturday are the heaviest in two years. Analysts say the government would like to re-establish control over the Niger Delta and secure oil revenues, a critical component of the Nigerian economy.