Troops mop up in restive Niger Delta

2010-11-17 08:57

Lagos - A Nigerian military task force said on Tuesday it was hunting down "criminals" who have been raiding oil facilities in the restive Niger Delta.

"The JTF (Joint Task Force) is at the moment engaging in a mop-up operation to look for criminals and those making life and property unsafe in the Niger Delta," the force's spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Antigha, told AFP.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) earlier on Tuesday said it had seized seven oil workers in a raid on an ExxonMobil facility and threatened a major attack while claiming the military fired rockets at one of its camps.

The offshore raid was the latest such incident in recent months in the Niger Delta, the heart of the country's huge oil industry, and the military warned of action at the weekend, saying residents near militant camps should clear out.

Mend accused the military of "indiscriminate bombing and strafing of communities in the Niger Delta and locations in the creeks and swamps suspected of accommodating militia camps".

It said Nigerian troops carried out the attack near one of its camps in the Niger Delta's Rivers state.

Antigha vowed that the JTF would press on with its mop-up operation "until the desired level of security and peace is achieved in the Niger Delta and the region is rid of criminal and illegal actions by the so-called militants".

He said "criminal elements" recently engaged in "acts of terrorism, hostage-taking and illegal boarding of oil platforms and facilities".

Mend also claims to be holding seven foreign oil workers - two Americans, two French, two Indonesians and one Canadian - seized in an offshore raid last week.

It has claimed responsibility for twin car bombings on independence day on October 01 that killed at least 12 people, the first such attack in the Nigerian capital Abuja.