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Nigerian Insurgents Pledge "Economic Tsunami"

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), an insurgent group active in southern Nigeria's Niger Delta region aligned against foreign oil companies and the Nigerian military, has issued a new threat against oil installations in its area of operations on January 10. Via e-mail, MEND fired a proverbial shot across the bow of the oil companies and the Nigerian government. As reported by the Associated Press:

The group, known as MEND, also warned in an e-mail sent to journalists that "an attack on the Nigeria oil industry that will cause an economic tsunami in the world oil markets is imminent."

In the same e-mail, MEND also took credit for a shooting attack against a number of ships owned by ExxonMobil and Addax Petroleum in the Bonny River. If their words were not enough to alarm the world's economy, Voice of America details that

Military and intelligence sources acknowledge oil rebels are stockpiling weapons and supplies in preparation for a big offensive.

MEND has also claimed that it is receiving training from Western mercenaries in ambush techniques and in the employment of surface-to-air missiles to be used against oil company helicopters that ferry workers throughout the delta, including to offshore oil platforms. Though the threat of an "economic tsunami" by MEND may be interpreted as simply bluster, the evidence of preparations for further attacks suggests otherwise. Nigeria is the fifth largest exporter of oil to the United States and is trending upward on that list, as is West Africa as a whole.

In view of the instability of the Niger Delta and the vulnerability of oil production to disruption from terrorist attacks on infrastructure and personnel, MEND needs to be taken seriously as the organization does not merely pose a threat to Nigeria alone, but to the world's economic security as a whole. MEND and similar groups in the Niger Delta have already succeeded in causing a drop of 20-25% in oil production through kidnappings and bombings and they likely have the capacity to inflict further reductions through violence. As MEND demonstrates, American and international dependence on oil does not merely have consequences in the Middle East alone.