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MEND vows to renew attacks on oil installations

Militants in action

Niger delta militants vowed Thursday to renew their five-year war insurgency which was temporarily abated over the last 90 days by a ceasefire declared by the militants

The Nigerian central bank says the violence has cost the country $1 billion a month in lost oil revenue, and helped push global oil prices higher. Nigeria’s oil exports account for 90 percent of the West African country’s foreign exchange earnings.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, is a loose alliance of several groups which has led the insurgency aimed at Western oil companies such as Chevron of the United States, Total of France and the Anglo-Dutch Shell.

The rebels demand a more equitable share of Nigeria’s oil revenue for the impoverished and long neglected Ijaw tribes of the delta, the main oil-producing region.

But their campaign has also degenerated into a massive crime spree, in which vast amounts of crude have been stolen and smuggled abroad in tankers.

MEND declared a 90-day truce on July 15. That was extended for another 30 days Sept. 15. It expires at midnight Thursday.

“MEND considers this next phase of our struggle as the most critical as we intend to end 50 years of slavery of the people of the Niger Delta by the Nigeria government, a few individuals and the Western oil companies once and for all,” the movement said in an e-mail communique.

On Thursday, MEND spokesman Jomo Gborno said the movement planned to intensify its campaign after negotiations with President Umaru Yar’Ardua failed to make any progress.

“In this next phase, we will burn down all attacked installations and no longer limit our attacks to the destruction of pipelines,” the communique added.