Mend claims attack on Agip oil facility
Nairobi - A Nigerian militant group has claimed responsibility for an attack on an Agip facility in the oil-producing Niger Delta, calling it the start of a new concerted campaign of sabotage targeting the oil industry.
"The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) hereby confirm that the attack on the Agip Clough Creek oil flow station in the late hours of Tuesday the 15th of March 2011 was carried out by our fighters," Mend spokesperson Jomo Gbomo said in an emailed statement.
"This attack is to mark the start of our promised campaign against the Nigerian oil industry," he added.
"This attack and similar attacks on pipelines and flows stations which will take place within the next few days is a reminder to the Nigerian government and the general public not to take our threats for granted."
However, army sources said the attack was actually carried out by local youths and Mend was simply attempting to take the credit.
Gbomo on Monday warned that Mend was set to begin a new campaign of bomb attacks against oil installations and political gatherings ahead of elections scheduled for April.
Mend previously conducted a long-running campaign of sabotage, claiming to be fighting for a more equitable distribution of wealth in the impoverished oil-producing Niger Delta.
The group's activities slashed Nigeria's oil output by around a quarter until an amnesty for militants in late 2009 brought about a lull in attacks.
However, Mend in 2010 began to ramp up its efforts again, claiming over a dozen lives in car-bomb attacks at a parade celebrating Nigeria's independence in October.
Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, is due to go to the polls on April 09 to elect a new president, with incumbent Goodluck Jonathan the favourite to win.
A concerted campaign of sabotage could undermine Jonathan, who is from the Niger Delta and was seen as having a chance of ending the conflict when he took over from the late Umaru Yar'Adua mid-2010.
There have been questions over the credibility of Mend claims in recent months, with the group changing email addresses several times, accusing other parties of sending out false warnings and claims in the name of the organisations.