Africa File: Nigeria's Marxist insurgent groups, ex-convict leader Asari, unite, prosecute week-long offensive against Shell facilities, armyNigeria's two largest Marxist insurgent groups, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force (NDPVF), have unified their military operations to sabotage and close down Royal Dutch Shell's petroleum facilities in Nigeria. Earlier this week MEND destroyed Shell's Orubiri pumping station and the oil pipeline at Rumuekpe, both in Rivers state. The latest orgy of guerrilla attacks began on September 13 when Nigerian soldiers and militants clashed in the Elem-Tombia district, south of Port Harcourt, the heart of Nigeria's oil industry.
On September 16 the guerrillas arrived at the Orubiri pumping station in eight speed boats and targeted a naval vessel with 10 people on board. "Militants detonated dynamite, bombs and lobbed some pieces of hand grenades on the facility,'' related Lieutenant-Colonel Sagir Musa, a spokesman for the region's joint military task force. "It is feared that the facility might have caught fire due to intense sporadic gunshots and massive dynamite and bomb explosions.'' The next day MEND threatened to expand the range of attacks beyond Rivers to other states and deep offshore oilfields, such as Shell's Bonga and Chevron Corp.'s Agbami facilities. In an important development, MEND admitted that its forces teamed up for the Orubiri raid with the NDPVF. The latter first took up arms in 2004 before suspending military operations following a peace deal with the federal government a year later.
The leader of the NDPVF is self-avowed Islamo-Marxist Mujahid Dokubu Asari (pictured above last year), whom we have profiled before. After serving a two-year jail term on treason charges Asari was released in June 2007 under the watchcare of Nigeria's new president Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, whom we have demonstrated is an under-the-radar communist. The president's stated reason for freeing Asari was to promote reconciliation between the federal government and the Niger Delta insurgents. "The move is seen as part of the new government's pledge to bring peace to the troubled Niger Delta region," BBC News reported at the time.
However, it appears that, not surprisingly, Asari has slipped back into his old terrorist habits. "It should be a major worry to oil companies and the government that MEND formed an alliance with another militant group to attack and destroy the Orubiri flow station,'' Thomas Pearmain, a London-based energy analyst at Global Insight, commented below, adding: "MEND has previously tended to work on its own.'' MEND launched a new attack today, targetting yet another Shell pipeline in Rivers state.
Nigerian Militants Step Up "Oil War" With Niger Delta Attacks
By Karl Maier and Dulue Mbachu
Sept. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Nigeria's main militant group in the Niger River delta intensified its ``oil war'' for a fifth day, claiming to have destroyed an oil-pumping station and a pipeline operated by a unit of Royal Dutch Shell Plc.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, in an e-mailed statement today, said it attacked the Orubiri pumping station in Rivers state at 10 p.m. yesterday. A Nigerian military spokesman confirmed the raid. MEND later said it destroyed an oil pipeline at Rumuekpe, also in Rivers state.
"The political mood in the capital Abuja is shifting away from negotiation and dialogue towards a tough military response,'' Antony Goldman, an independent analyst specializing in Nigeria, said by phone from London. "If militants can take the violence beyond Rivers, it will represent a setback for what appears to be the military's new strategy.''
Attacks by armed groups in the Niger delta region have cut more than 20 percent of Nigeria's crude exports since 2006. Nigeria was Africa's top oil producer last month.
"MEND seem the most organized they have been for almost two years, yet the Federal Government is lacking leadership on this crucial issue in how to find a resolution in the Delta,'' Thomas Pearmain, a London-based energy analyst at Global Insight, said in an e-mailed response to questions.
Shell is aware of reports of sabotage at Rumuekpe and is investigating, company spokesman Precious Okolobo said in a telephone interview today.
Shell, the biggest international operator in Nigeria's oil industry, has borne the brunt of the attacks. The company runs 6,000 kilometers (3,720 miles) of pipelines, 87 oil pumping stations, 10 gas plants and two main oil export terminals, according to its Web site.
The latest spate of attacks began on Sept. 13 when Nigerian soldiers and militants clashed in the Elem-Tombia district, south of Port Harcourt, the hub of Nigeria's oil industry. MEND said troops had launched an air and marine offensive against its positions and declared an "oil war'' targeting installations in the region, which produces almost all of Nigeria's crude.
MEND today threatened to broaden its range of attacks beyond Rivers to other states and deep offshore oilfields such as Shell's Bonga and Chevron Corp.'s Agbami facilities.
"The whole Delta region appears to be under attack as MEND has promised to move across the delta after completing their attacks in Rivers State,'' Pearmain of Global Insight said.
MEND says it's fighting on behalf of the inhabitants of the Niger Delta who have yet to share in the oil wealth of the 70,000-square kilometer region.
The government and independent analysts say many of the armed groups in the Niger delta are involved in selling stolen crude and kidnapping.
"Armed groups are well resourced and have a lucrative illicit trade to protect,'' Goldman said.
The attackers of the Orubiri pumping station arrived in eight speed boats and targeted a naval vessel with 10 people on board, said Lieutenant-Colonel Sagir Musa, a spokesman for the region's joint military task force. No naval personnel were killed in the attack, he said.
"Militants detonated dynamite, bombs and lobbed some pieces of hand grenades on the facility,'' Musa said in a mobile-phone text message. "It is feared that the facility might have caught fire due to intense sporadic gunshots and massive dynamite and bomb explosions.''
MEND said it had teamed up for the Orubiri raid with the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force, which first took up arms in 2004 before reaching a peace deal with the government a year later.
The volunteer force's leader, Mujahid Dokubu Asari, issued a statement with other delta militant leaders yesterday condemning the government's military actions in the oil region.
"It should be a major worry to oil companies and the government that MEND formed an alliance with another militant group to attack and destroy the Orubiri flow station,'' Pearmain said. "MEND has previously tended to work on its own.''
On Sept. 15, MEND attacked a Shell-run pipeline at Bakana in Rivers state and the company's Alakiri flow station the night before. Militants also clashed with soldiers near a Chevron oil field yesterday.
Chevron spokesman Scott Walker said yesterday that the incident near the Idama oil field had no impact on production, which was already shut-in for pipeline repairs.
Nigeria pumped 1.9 million barrels of oil a day last month, according to Bloomberg estimates, which is 263,000 barrels a day less than its quota from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
The net economic result of the insurgents' assault against Nigeria's petroleum infrastructure has been to once again drive up the price of crude and endanger the long-term health of the fossil fuel-dependent world economy. In recent weeks high-profile bank, mortgage, and insurance company failures have been accompanied by panic selling in financial markets, history-making bankruptcies (Lehman Brothers), forced buyouts (Merrill Lynch), and socialism-inspired government takeovers and bailouts (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and American International Group).
Into this mess steps the Kremlin with the intent of restoring military linkages with Soviet-era client states in Africa, like Algeria and Libya, and establishing new joint energy enterprises with countries like Nigeria. "We have recently revived our contacts with all African countries that used to be traditional buyers of Soviet weaponry," Rosoboronexport General Director Anatoly Isaykin informed a news conference at the Africa Aerospace & Defence-2008 exhibition near Cape Town. State-run Novosti reports that "Russian-made helicopters have traditionally met with high demand in Africa. According to various sources, Russia has supplied over 700 helicopters, including Mi-24/35 Hind attack helicopters, to African countries." Last year Russian arms exports amounted to US$7 billion, making the Kremlin the world's second-largest exporter of conventional weapons after the USA.
Russia rebuilds Soviet-era military-technical ties with Africa
21:5217/ 09/ 2008
CAPE TOWN, September 17 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has successfully reestablished military-technical cooperation with African countries, which saw a decline after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the head of Russia's state arms exporter said on Wednesday.
"We have recently revived our contacts with all African countries that used to be traditional buyers of Soviet weaponry," Rosoboronexport General Director Anatoly Isaykin told a news conference at the Africa Aerospace & Defence-2008 (AAD-2008) exhibition near Cape Town.
Russia's arms trade customers in Africa include Algeria, Libya, Angola, Ethiopia, Uganda, Morocco, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique and Burkina Faso. African countries are attracted to the reliability and competitive prices of Russian arms.
Russian-made helicopters have traditionally met with high demand in Africa. According to various sources, Russia has supplied over 700 helicopters, including Mi-24/35 Hind attack helicopters, to African countries.
At present Rosoboronexport, while expecting new sales contracts, plans to prioritize the establishment of helicopter maintenance centers to provide repair services for helicopters that had been previously sold to African customers.
"We are offering a variety of post-sale services to our traditional customers, prioritizing maintenance of helicopters as well as MiG-23, MiG-27, MiG-29 and Su-24 combat aircraft, and also pilot training," the Russian official said.
He also said Russia is ready to offer potential customers in Africa "alternative and flexible" forms of payment for purchased military equipment, including the creation of joint ventures, exclusive rights for exploration of natural resources in African countries, and deliveries of traditional goods such as diamonds, cotton and coffee.
"These offers give our African customers additional opportunities to acquire Russian-made military equipment," Isaykin said.
Russia has been striving in recent years to regain its competitive edge in the global arms trade.
The country has doubled annual arms exports since 2000 to $7 billion last year, becoming the world's second-largest exporter of conventional weapons after the United States.
Russia exports arms to about 80 countries. Among the largest buyers are China, India, Algeria, Venezuela, Iran, Malaysia, and Serbia.
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