Mend destroys oil pipeline
Lagos - Nigeria's most prominent armed group Mend said on Tuesday it had attacked and destroyed an oil pipeline feeding a refinery in the restive oil-rich Niger Delta region.
"On Sunday ... fighters of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta attacked and destroyed the Obidi-Refinery trunk line," the group said in an e-mail statement to the media.
Mend said the pipeline transported crude oil to the refinery in the oil city of Warri in southern Delta State.
A spokesperson for the joint military task force in the region did not confirm the claim. "We are not aware of any attack," Colonel Timothy Antigha told AFP.
The Nigerian military does not always admit to claims by Mend which on Monday threatened to paralyse the country's oil industry after the military claimed to have arrested dozens of militants.
The Nigerian army at the weekend claimed to have arrested 63 militants as part of a clampdown on recent kidnappings and attacks on oil facilities in the region.
The militants were accused of the kidnapping of 19 oil workers, including several foreigners, in recent weeks.
"This attack and similar attacks on pipelines which will take place within the next few days is a reminder to the Nigerian government of the futility of wasting the nation's resources in combating militancy without addressing the underlying causes of agitation in the Niger Delta," said Mend.
New round of abductions
The military had in an operation on Wednesday freed the 19 hostages from the creeks of the Niger Delta region, the heart of one of the world's largest oil industries. The victims included American, Canadian, French, Indonesian and Nigerian nationals.
The gang was captured from Bokokiri in Degema local government area of Rivers state during a daytime raid on Friday. A cache of arms and ammunition was also recovered from them.
Recent attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta had signaled a new round of abductions after an amnesty programme last year reduced unrest in the region and oil output rose to 2.2 million barrels per day.
The fresh attacks come ahead of general elections early next year in which President Goodluck Jonathan, a come from the Delta, is running and he is under severe pressure to rein in the unrest in the region.
Mend, which claims to be fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenue, has also been seen as an umbrella organisation for criminal gangs. It is believed to have splintered, particularly over the amnesty.