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MEND's Call to Arms in the Niger Delta

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), an insurgent organization operating in the southern oil-rich region of Nigeria’s Niger Delta, called for the resumption of hostilities against government forces and foreign oil companies operating in the area on December 17. Though MEND is the most well-known and effective group attacking oil production facilities and other targets in the volatile Niger Delta, other similarly orientated groups exist as well, such as the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force. After reneging from a peace deal with the Nigerian government in September, MEND has now issued a call for all the disparate insurgent groups in the delta to unite and finish off all oil production in the region. In an e-mail sent to journalists, MEND issued a new call to arms:

"We call on all genuine militant groups to unite and cripple the oil industry in Nigeria once and for all," the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said.

"The time has come for all breakaway factions to come together and wage war of a different kind in 2008," it said in an email.

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"MEND has long suspected the insincerity of the Nigerian government, the military, and oil majors along with their collaborators," it said.

The implications of this message reach far beyond Nigeria. The West African nation has emerged as a major producer of petroleum to the world at large and for the United States specifically. During previous bouts of MEND violence against oil company targets, including the kidnapping of foreign workers, Nigerian petroleum production dropped by a reported 20%. On December 19, the Niger Delta Vigilante, yet another insurgent organization of the Niger Delta region, attacked a number of oil and government-related targets in the town of Okrika. As reported by Reuters:

Nigerian gunmen attacked an oil industry barge, a jetty and a government building on Wednesday, briefly capturing 18 Filipino crew and fighting with troops, officials said on Thursday. Violence has been on the increase for the past month in the Niger Delta, where about 2.1 million barrels of crude are pumped every day. Armed rebels say they are losing patience with peace talks launched in June by Nigeria's new government.

Though it was unclear if this attack was inspired by MEND’s call for greater action against the oil industry, this attack is likely a harbinger of things to come. With the stated aim of waging a new kind of war in 2008, MEND has the capacity to precipitate a drop in production further than the 20% it has already accomplished. In view of record oil prices on the world market, increased instability in the Niger Delta has the capacity to raise prices to even more painful levels. As such, it is surprising that international observers are not giving greater attention to MEND and the other groups of its ilk.