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Sailor killed as gunmen attack oil facility

GUNMEN attacked Nigerian navy personnel protecting a Royal Dutch Shell oil facility in the Niger Delta yesterday, killing one sailor and stealing four speedboats, the military said.

The attack on a navy houseboat at Nembe in Bayelsa state in the early hours was in apparent retaliation for the sinking of four militant speedboats over the weekend by the Nigerian navy, military spokesman Colonel Rabe Abubakar said. Shell spokesman Precious Okolobo said there was no damage to oil facilities or any impact on production but said he had no further details and referred inquiries to the security forces.

"The attack was jointly carried out by (militant leaders) Kitikata and Fara Dagogo," Abubakar said.

"Regrettably in the process of defending the facility, one naval rating was killed, two sustained minor injuries and four Shell speedboats were carted away by the miscreants," he said.

The main militant group in the region, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, said it was not involved in the attack but put the death toll higher, saying three sailors were killed, four abducted and two navy gunboats seized.

Attacks on industry facilities by militants or saboteurs seeking to steal crude oil are frequent in the creeks of the Niger Delta, one of the world's largest wetlands and home to Africa's biggest oil and gas industry.

But direct confrontation with the military has been relatively rare in recent months.

President Umaru Yar'Adua said 10 days ago he was ready to grant amnesty to gunmen in the Niger Delta if they agreed to lay down their weapons.


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