Nigerian Rebel Group Says It Ruptured Oil Pipeline

The Niger Delta Liberation Force, a militant group fighting government troops in Nigeria’s southeastern oil region, said it ruptured an oil pipeline belonging to the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp.

The attack on the pipeline at Batan in Nigeria’s Delta state took place last night, Mack Anthony, a spokesman for the group known as NDLF, said in an e-mailed statement today. Levi Ajuonuma, the spokesman for Nigerian National Petroleum, didn’t answer a call on his mobile phone seeking comment.

Camps operated by the militant group led by John Togo near the town of Ayakoromor came under air and ground attack by troops last week, resulting in the capture of weapons including rocket launchers, general purpose machine guns and dynamites, Colonel Timothy Antigha, a military spokesman, said last week. NDLF said more than 100 civilians were killed in the military raids, a claim denied by Antigha, who told reporters yesterday only a few civilians may have been killed.

The military crackdown follows a recent surge of attacks by militants in the region who are demanding a greater share of the delta’s oil riches, after a period of calm when thousands of fighters disarmed under a government amnesty plan. Armed raids in the delta cut about 28 percent of Nigeria’s oil exports between 2006 and 2009, according to Bloomberg data.

Nigeria is the fifth-largest source of U.S. oil imports. Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Total SA and Eni SpA run joint ventures with the state-owned oil company that pump more than 90 percent of the West African nation’s oil.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s government is branding the NDLF criminals to avoid addressing “the root cause of the Niger Delta violent arms struggle,” the group said.

The main armed group in the region, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which claimed responsibility for recent attacks on the oil industry, said in an e-mail last week it was planning new attacks.

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