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Niger Delta: a widening war?

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niger_delta_militants2.jpgRebels fighting for greater control of Nigeria’s oil wealth have raised the stakes in their campaing of bombings and kidnappings by threatening to extend attacks to offshore oil installations. Nigeria’s most prominent militant group earlier announced the launch of an “oil war” against oil companies and security forces in the restive Niger Delta. The four-days of fighting since the announcement have been the heaviest since the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta began its campaign of violence against the oil sector in early 2006. International oil markets, depressed in recent days by the impact of the credit crisis on the global economy, finally began taking notice of the escalating violence in Nigeria’s oil-producing region on Wednesday.

Security sources say more than 100 people may have been killed by the fighting, which has spread to at least seven villages in Rivers state.

Security sources and militants say this is a military offensive long planned by the government. The military disagrees saying the fighting was provoked by militant attacks.

The fighting comes just weeks after Nigeria’s president Umaru Yar’Adua handpicked new military chiefs and announced the establishment of a new ministry dedicated to the Niger Delta problem.

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