Gunmen attack oil terminal, kidnap 3 expats

Niger Delta militants attacked an Agip oil export terminal Bayelsa State early this morning and kidnapped three expatriate workers. It has been 16 days since the last abduction, one that ended with the tragic killing of a British hostage, the first to die as a result of a kidnapping.

The rebels attempted to storm Agip’s Brass terminal, which exports about 200,000 barrels per day, at 5.00 a.m. (0400 GMT) but were repelled after an exchange of fire with soldiers guarding the facility in a remote part of the state.

They did not succeed in entering the terminal but when that failed went to a residential facility where they kidnapped three expatriates.

Kidnappings for ransom are common in the Niger Delta. Hostages are usually released unharmed after money changes hands, although this year one British hostage and one Nigerian were killed during botched attempts by troops to release them.

Nigeria is to host a meeting of OPEC ministers on December 14, making one wonder whether today’s attack might not be a prelude of more to come over the next week. The Niger Delta, which accounts for literally all of Nigeria’s oil output, has been plagued by kidnappings, attacks on oil facilities, massive theft and smuggling of crude and politically motivated violence for years. However, it is only since January that these activities have increased in number and sophistication. Many of the indigenes of the region resent the oil industry which has yielded huge revenues for corrupt governments and for foreign oil firms while bringing them few benefits.

As a result, militancy and crime flourish in the impenetrable region of mangrove-lined creeks and swamps where the security forces find it hard to match the firepower and local knowledge of their opponents.

Violence in the delta has been particularly bad this year as Nigeria prepares for elections next April.

On Wednesday night, two men on a motorcycle threw dynamite at the campaign headquarters of Bayelsa’s Governor Goodluck Jonathan in the state capital Yenagoa, police commissioner Hafiz Ringim told Reuters.

No one was hurt in the blast, which shattered the windows of several surrounding buildings and left a crater in the road. It was the second such attack in Yenagoa in less than two weeks after the local headquarters of the ruling People’s Democratic Party were also bombed.

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