Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Nigerian army says 14 killed in Niger Delta violence

Nigeria's Army Chief of Staff Onyeabo Ihejirika has spoken out about the recent clashes between Nigeria's armed forces and the militants in the oil rich Niger Delta. Ihejirika said that eight soldiers and six civilians were killed in a recent army raid on militant camps, thought to belong to the militant leader John Togo.

The violence taking place in Warri, has spread to neighbouring communities. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Nigerian Red Cross Society are on hand to provide assistance to those affected by the fighting. ICRC spokesman in Abuja, Robin Waudo, has said that many people displaced by the violence have been left homeless. Waudo pointed out that it is imperative for the Red Cross to have access to those in need further adding, “We continue to have a good ongoing dialogue with the military hierarchy of the joint task force, but we also need to be able to talk to the other side, in order to be able to access places that are out of the reach of the military as well.”

Several local human rights groups have said that the armed forces have targeted civilians and burned down homes during an outbreak of violence in Ayakoromo, nearby Togo's suspected hideaway. But the army has countered the accusation by saying that it followed Togo's followers into Aykaoromo when they opened fire.

"We lost a total of eight soldiers in the cross-fire and we also received reports from those on the ground that six civilians were killed during that operation," said Ihejirika. Speaking about the fires, Ihejirija said that President Goodluck Jonathan had asked the army to rebuild homes that were destroyed in the attack.

In other Niger Delta news, the commanding officer of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS), Henry Babalola, has said that there has been a significant drop in illegal oil bunkering in the Delta. He noted that oil bunkering was on the decline compared to two/three years ago, when as much as 200,000barrels of crude were being misplaced on a daily basis.

“As I have always said, we are watchdogs to the oil industry and the national economy. We may not be telling you in detail, this is what we are able to do; but our joy is that from statistics from oil companies like Shell and Chevron, illegal bunkering activities have actually declined,” added Ihejirija.

Sources: Reuters, Vatican Voice, Nigerian Compass

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

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