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MEND Bombs Oil Tanker

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the Nigerian insurgent group, did not take long to act on its promise to create an "economic tsunami in the world oil markets". On January 11 MEND claimed responsibility for a bombing attack on the oil tanker Golden Lucy while it was waiting to offload fuel in Port Harcourt, Nigeria's main transit point for petroleum exports. The explosion caused a fire that caused no fatalities but injured several.

Oil industry sources reported that exports were unaffected, so whether this particular strike will result in MEND's economic tsunami is at this juncture unlikely. However, it would be foolish to assume that this is the sole action MEND has in the works. Though the damage caused the attack was not earth shattering, the modus operandi employed raises an alarm. According to The Wall Street Journal:

An oil tanker attack represents a dramatic change for the insurgency in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta. In the past, groups have staged attacks against oil installations in Nigeria's swamps or in shallow, off-shore waters. Groups, some of them criminal gangs, have also targeted foreign oil workers in kidnapping attempts. They have also attacked Nigerian security forces, killing dozens in recent years. Gunmen have also staged increasingly bold attacks on oil installations further out to sea. But if MEND's assertions are true that it worked with insiders, the attack could indicate the Nigerian oil industry is significantly more vulnerable to attack.

Clearly, if sympathy and support for MEND is growing among the local population, the group's capacity for destructive attacks grows considerably. The full text of MEND's claim of responsibility follows:

January 11, 2008.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) confirms that its Freelance Freedom Fighters (FFF) working inside the oil industry detonated a remote explosive device that caused the fire on a tanker in Port Harcourt, Rivers state of Nigeria today, January 11, 2008.

How can the government of Nigeria fight an enemy that is within and can not be seen? MEND salutes the patriotic agents and also use this opportunity to commend our friends inside the military and secret service for valuable information and resources. We call on all oppressed citizens of the Niger Delta to do your own bit in your own way to regain freedom and win the fight against injustice. Even if it means to poison the drinks and food sold to the soldiers that rape our women and brutalize and kill our youths, just do it.

Again, we are appealing to residents inside the Niger Delta to avoid milling close to military vehicles and check points as we want to avoid the loss of civilian lives. The military seems to be deliberately using civilians as human shields.

Long live the Niger Delta!

Jomo Gbomo

Jomo Gbomo is MEND's elusive spokesman who communicates with the media by e-mail. As his words attest, if MEND has sources within the Nigerian military and security services, it does not bode well for efforts to stabilize the Niger Delta nor to militarily defeat the insurgency. The Nigerian military does not have a particularly stellar track record in confronting MEND. Referring to individual members of MEND, Sebastian Junger wrote:

They were a collection of walking nightmares, everything that is terrifying to the human psyche, and when confronted with them, Nigerian soldiers have been known to just drop their weapons and run.

The coming days will determine if MEND can strike the single blow that cripples the Nigerian oil industry or if their campaign will succeed through the fomentation of low level instability through constant small scale attacks. Whichever path is chosen, the initiative at this point clearly lies with MEND.