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Nigeria:Blast Hits Capital Killing Seven – Police

The nation’s capital Abuja has been reported to have been rocked with explosion killing seven people and three others injured. A police official said this after the country’s main rebel group warned it had planted bombs around a venue where the country’s 50th independence anniversary is being celebrated.

“We’re aware of two blasts,” police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu said in a phone interview today. “There were casualties, about seven dead and three injured.”

Blast in ABUJA

Security officials have cordoned off an area at the scene of the blast, near the Federal High Court building, in which three cars were destroyed.

Earlier, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the main armed group in Nigeria’s southern oil region, said it had planted bombs around the venue and urged people attending the celebrations to evacuate. Xinhua reported that MEND, as the group is known, claimed responsibility for the blast.

“We’re investigating and they’ll be brought to book if it’s confirmed that they carried out the blasts,” Ojukwu said.

Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer and the fifth- biggest source of U.S. oil imports. Its low-sulfur sweet crude is favored by many U.S. refiners.

MEND wants states in the oil-rich Niger River delta region to keep all revenue earned from crude sales and pay only taxes to the federal government. Now, the government in Abuja takes 87 percent of the revenue and producing states receive 13 percent.

“There is nothing worth celebrating after 50 years of failure,” Jomo Gbomo, a spokesman for MEND, said in an e-mailed statement today. “For 50 years, the people of the Niger Delta have had their land and resources stolen from them.”

Last year, MEND spurned an offer by the Nigerian government of amnesty in return for laying down their weapons, saying the government has yet to address its demand for local control of the delta’s resources.

Armed attacks on the oil industry cut Nigeria’s crude output by more than 28 percent from 2006 to 2009, according to Bloomberg data, and deterred new investment.

–Editors: Paul Richardson, Antony Sguazzin

To contact the reporters on this story: Dulue Mbachu in Abuja at dmbachu@bloomberg.net. Paul Okolo in Abuja at pokolo@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.