Threat to Nigeria ceasefire

2009-08-18 21:08

Lagos - Nigeria's main armed group in the Niger Delta on Tuesday warned that the alleged extrajudicial execution of a civilian by the military was putting an ongoing ceasefire in jeopardy.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said in a statement that the special military unit, the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Sama, in southern Rivers State, on Monday "executed an unarmed man and dumped his body into the river".

"Such irresponsible action by the military, even if it is targeted at civilians, is not acceptable and can jeopardise the current ceasefire if repeated," the statement warned.

Following the civilian's execution, youths in the area carried out a reprisal attack on the JTF unit, killed a soldier and went away with his rifle, it said in the statement titled "threat to ceasefire".

'Defend and retaliate'

The MEND expressed its support for the action of the youths.

"The MEND stands behind communities who take actions to defend themselves and retaliate extrajudicial killings by the military," the text said.

The MEND, which engaged the military in a bloody confrontation in Delta State in June when dozens of soldiers, militants and civilians were killed, last July 15 declared a 60-day ceasefire.

The truce was in response to President Umaru Yar'Adua's declaration, last June 25, of an unconditional amnesty for all militants in the volatile region who lay down their arms.

The amnesty runs from August 6 to October 4.

JTF spokesperson Colonel Rabe Abubakar denied the killing of the civilian.

"There was no such incident to the best of my knowledge. The JTF cannot go contrary to the amnesty programme," he told AFP.

Attacks by armed groups on oil facilities in the Niger Delta cost hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude a day. Hundreds of oil workers have been kidnapped, and monthly oil revenue this year dropped to around $1bn from an average of $2.2bn in 2008.

Oil is Nigeria's foremost foreign exchange earner.