The Nigeria army has raided a village near the main oil city of Port Harcourt, where most of the recent kidnappings of foreign oil workers took place.  A group blamed for several robberies and abductions was the target.

An undisclosed number of suspected militants are being interrogated following their arrest Tuesday by troops of the Joint Military Task Force.  Soldiers stormed the Okochiri village, near the main oil city Port Harcourt, in an operation that lasted several hours.

Two helicopter gunships hovered overhead while troops raided pre-determined targets.

The operation was the second since last month when President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered a crackdown on militants in the delta.

Residents say the offensive was to capture elements of the Niger Delta Vigilante Group, which is blamed for most of the recent robberies and kidnappings in the region.

Army spokesman, Colonel Ayo Olaniyan, who confirmed the raid, said it was an ongoing effort to resolve the region's security problems.

"The Joint Task Force in Port Harcourt carried out an operation in a place called Evil Forest, on the outskirts of Port Harcourt," he said.  "It was based on intelligence, when they have reason to operate in a particular place, they move in and cordon off the area and search since they might get to arrest people or get some of their weapons and things like that.  But it continues.  It does not mean everyday an operation takes place.  It is on the basis of when the need arises, when they are sure they can get something out of it."

The fugitive leader of the group, Atake Tom, escaped but the troops seized a dozen assault riffles, eight sub-machine guns, and bulletproof vests.

Colonel Olaniyan confirmed the weapons haul.

"I know that some equipment, some military items were recovered," he added.  "There was a haul of military items, like some riffles were found an then of course seized, some general purpose machine guns, sub machine guns and some other items."

The abductions and attacks on oil facilities have forced a cut in Nigeria's oil production by a quarter.

President Obasanjo ordered the crackdown in the wake of the violence that has compelled most foreign oil workers to in the region, to move around with armed guards.