Gunmen Attack Ships at Nigeria Oil Loading Platform

January 20, 2009

Gunmen opened fire on at least two oil vessels at Nigeria’s Bonny crude oil loading platform late on Saturday, the site’s joint owner Royal Dutch Shell and industry security sources said on Sunday.

One of the sources said gunmen initially opened fire on an oil tanker at the facility but were unable to board the vessel. They then attacked a tugboat and two service boats, one of which was later found drifting with its crew apparently abducted. “They went on the rampage at other vessels in the area,” the security source said.

“We can confirm there was an attack on two vessels, a tanker and a support vessel, at SPDC’s crude loading platform at Bonny, Rivers state, last night,” said a spokeswoman for Shell, which operates the Bonny platform in a joint venture with the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). “The vessels were not owned by Shell.”

A second industry security source said a crew member on the tugboat was believed to have been killed in the attack. A military spokesman could not immediately provide any details.

Violence in the Niger Delta, home to Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry, has cut Nigeria’s oil output by around a fifth over the past three years.

The main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), announced a unilateral cease-fire in September but has repeatedly threatened to end it.

The group, which has been holding two British oil workers hostage since September, warned last week that it would attack military targets in the region in retaliation for the killing of a suspected militant gang member by the security forces.

MEND said earlier on Sunday that it had moved the two British hostages deeper into the delta’s creeks after a military raid on its camps over the weekend.

(Reporting by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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