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Oil Facility Attack in Nigeria Raises Fears of Renewed Militancy

FILE - Nigeria's amnesty program for ex-militants was begun in 2009 to stop the sabotage of oil facilities, like this attack on a pipeline in Andoni in December 2005. Recent attacks have raised fears of renewed militancy in the area.

Nigeria's navy said Thursday that militants attacked an offshore facility belonging to multinational petroleum company Chevron, the latest in a spate of attacks in the petroleum-rich Niger Delta region.

The attack raises fears of a renewed militancy in the delta, which was the site of an insurgency by communities demanding a greater share of oil wealth that was quelled only when the government started paying off militants in 2009.

Nigeria navy spokesman Chris Ezekobe told VOA the attackers dynamited a facility that collected oil and gas near the major Escravos export terminal in Delta State Wednesday evening.

There were no casualties, Ezekobe said. He didn't know if any oil had spilled.

"It's not completely shut down, but its ability to pump crude and gas has been highly degraded and that also has affected the production of Escravos itself," Ezekobe said.

On its website, a group calling itself the Niger Delta Avengers took responsibility for the attack. The group has previously taken credit sabotaging a handful of oil pipelines and facilities in the Niger Delta.

Despite being home to most of Nigeria's oil wealth, the Niger Delta remains poor and underdeveloped. That has fueled high levels of crime and kidnapping along with a spate of thefts and sabotage targeted at oil facilities.

President Muhammadu Buhari said last month that his administration would deal with oil saboteurs the same way they deal with the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, which has spent years fighting the military and terrorizing Nigeria's northeast.