Niger Delta Update
Amid the latest news from Nigeria's volatile oil-producing Niger Delta region comes a pledge by several rebel groups, many of which are more criminal in nature than terrorist, to reengage in peace talks with the government. However, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which is itself an umbrella organization of different factions, is still committed to waging attacks against Nigerian security forces and foreign oil companies. As reported by Reuters:
But the absence of a key faction of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which has claimed responsibility for most serious attacks on oil facilities in recent months, means violence is likely to continue.
This faction of MEND, led by Henry Okah, currently being held in Angola on gun running charges, is the primary instigator of attacks in the delta at the current point in time. Okah's group took responsibility for a February 3 attack on a Nigerian military post guarding Shell Petroleum's Tora manifold in Bayelsa state. Three soldiers were killed in the attack while MEND denied the military's assertion that eight rebels had been killed as well. MEND's claim of responsibility follows:
"In the early hours of Sunday, February 3, 2008, fighters from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) attacked a military houseboat stationed at the Shell Petroleum Tora manifold in Bayelsa state of Nigeria," it said in an email to AFP.
[...]"MEND carried out the attack. We did not suffer any casualties. That was not the original intended target, but we had to make do," it said, but did not say what the original target was.
Oil production was not affected. Certainly some curious word choice for a terrorist communique and it obviously leads to questions regarding the identity of the attack's initial target. In related news, MEND's campaign to halt oil production achieved success as Shell announced it would be unable to honor export contracts from Nigeria. According to AFP:
Anglo-Dutch oil group Shell said Thursday it would not be able to honour all of its export contracts from its southern Nigerian Bonny export terminal for two months because of sabotage.
Shell did not give figures on the expected loss in production but industry sources said it runs into thousands of barrels of crude.Shell is Nigeria's largest oil operator, accounting for around half of the country's daily output of 2.6 million barrels at peak production, but unrest in the Niger Delta have slashed production by a quarter since January 2006.
Obviously, this represents a big blow to Shell and significant encouragement to MEND's operations. However, oil prices were not severely affected by the news as fears of a downturn in energy demand due to the slackening American economy counteracted any supply concerns emergent from the Nigerian disruptions.