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Nigerian Forces Launch Offensive Against Niger Delta Militants

FILE - Petrol tankers load fuel from a depot in Lagos, Nigeria, Jan. 29, 2006. Military offensives in Lagos and Ogun states have left more than 100 militants dead, one official says.

Joint military offensives carried out in Lagos and Ogun states by the Nigerian Army, Air Force and Navy have left more than 100 militants dead.

At least 114 militants are feared killed, and scores of others were injured in attacks on their camps in southwest Nigeria. Brig. Gen. Rabe Abubakar, director of defense information, says military intelligence suggests that Niger Delta militants have been hiding out in creek beds.

The militants have recently stepped up attacks on oil pipeline installations in the oil-producing Niger Delta State and have threatened to do more harm to the oil sector.

In an interview with VOA, Abubakar said the military offensives are part of efforts to ensure the country maintains its territorial integrity. He says the offensives denied the militants freedom of movement and destroyed their camps to prevent them from having a place to launch attacks.

FILE - Militants are seen patrolling the creeks of the Niger delta region of Nigeria, Jan. 30, 2007.
FILE - Militants are seen patrolling the creeks of the Niger delta region of Nigeria, Jan. 30, 2007.

This, after some Nigerians tipped off the military that the Niger Delta militants have been using the creeks in both Ogun and Lagos states as hideouts to regroup, and from where they return to the Niger Delta to launch attacks on the oil infrastructure.

More offensives ahead

Abubakar described the offensives as successful due to the good synergy among the army, navy and air force. He says the offensives will continue in different parts of the country where militants create instability, including attacking unarmed civilians.

"The significance of this combined and very vibrant effort of the Nigerian armed forces is to ensure that the militants are flushed out from that general area where they have been causing mayhem,” Abubakar said, “and, more significantly, to ensure that their hideouts and camps are completely taken away from that place.”

Local media reports say the military offensive rattled residents in both Ogun and Lagos states. Some military analysts suggested that the offensives are aimed at pushing the militants to the Niger Delta area, where the armed forces have readied plans of a bigger onslaught.

Abubakar denied the offensives made residents uncomfortable. He says the security agencies will not allow militants to overrun the country by creating chaos and insecurity. He also says the offensive could serve as a significant boost to the Nigerian economy, because it would prevent the militants from destroying the oil pipelines.

Nigeria's economy heavily depends on oil exports despite attempts by successive governments to diversify.

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