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Nigeria’s Mend claims attack on Eni pipeline

6 Feb 2012, 6.32 am GMT

Johannesburg, 6 February (Argus) — Nigeria's main rebel group claimed yesterday that it had carried out an attack on the Nembe-Brass crude pipeline operated by Italian oil group Eni.

The attack resulted in the loss of 4,000 b/d of its crude, said Eni, which operates in Nigeria in a joint venture with Nigeria's state-owned oil firm NNPC, Shell and Total.

The Nigerian military said the damage to the pipeline in the southern oil state of Bayelsa was caused by criminal activity and not the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend). The attack, if carried out by Mend, would be its first since 2010. A presidential amnesty to rebel groups in the delta since 2009 has resulted in a sharp reduction in the number of attacks against oil and gas facilities in the region.

But yesterday's incident raises the prospects of further attacks against oil and gas facilities in Africa's largest oil exporter. Nigeria's government is already faced with security problems caused by recent attacks by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram group in the north of the country. Some rebel groups in the delta have previously warned they would resume their attacks in the wake of the Boko Haram attacks.

"This relatively insignificant attack is a reminder of our presence in the creeks of the Niger delta and a sign of things to come," Mend said. "Our silence thus far has been strategic, and at the right time we will reduce Nigerian oil production to zero,"

Mend also warned it would "drive off our land, thieving oil companies" from the delta. Foreign oil firms operating in the delta include Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Total and Eni that operate the bulk of the country's 2.1mn b/d of crude output. Nigeria is also a leading exporter of LNG from the 22mn t/yr Nigeria LNG plant on Bonny island.

Mend was sharply critical of the administration of Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan and government payments under the amnesty to “thugs calling themselves ex-militants”. Mend also warned that it would attack the commercial interests of South African firms in Nigeria. The alleged Mend leader Henry Okah is currently in a South African prison facing terrorism charges.

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