Nigeria’s Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta threatened to bomb mosques and assassinate Muslim clerics, a week after saying it killed 15 security personnel in the southern oil-producing Bayelsa state.
The campaign will start May 31 “to save Christianity in Nigeria from annihilation,” MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “The bombings of mosques, haj camps, Islamic institutions, large congregations in Islamic events and assassinations of clerics that propagate doctrines of hate will form the core mission of this crusade.”
MEND, the main rebel group in the oil-rich south, may call off “Operation Barbarossa” if Christian organizations and the group’s suspected leader Henry Okah intervene, Gbomo said. It also urged the Islamist militants of Boko Haram to stop attacking Christians and churches.
Boko Haram has waged a violent campaign since 2009 to impose Islamic law in Africa’s biggest oil producer that has killed hundreds of people in the mainly Muslim north and Abuja, the capital.
MEND destroyed a Royal Dutch Shell Plc oil well in Nembe in southern Bayelsa state on April 13 as part of a separate operation it calls “Hurricane Exodus,” Gbomo said.
Precious Okolobo, a Lagos-based spokesman for Shell’s Nigerian unit, said today by phone that he couldn’t confirm the attack.
MEND has always focused on the Niger River delta and the control of oil resources and never had a religious agenda, Bismarck Rewane, chief executive officer of Financial Derivatives Co., a Lagos-based business advisory group, said by phone from the commercial capital, Lagos.
“If it’s real, it’s a problem,” Rewane said, commenting on the threat to attack Muslim targets. “I doubt that it’s genuine; it could be contrived for political reasons.”
The naira was unchanged at 157.9 against the dollar at 4:26 p.m. in Lagos. Qua Iboe crude, Nigeria’s benchmark grade, dropped 20 cents today to $3.15 a barrel more than Dated Brent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Its premium climbed to $3.60 a barrel on April 5, the highest since October 2011.
MEND said April 3 it would resume attacks after Okah was sentenced last month to 24 years in prison in South Africa. He was found guilty of 13 counts of terrorism, including a bombing claimed by MEND in which 12 people died in Abuja in 2010.
On April 10, Nigerian authorities recovered 10 bodies of policemen killed four days earlier in an attack on a boat by gunmen in the oil-rich Niger River delta, Bayelsa state Police Commissioner Kingsley Omire said.
Three policemen and the boat driver jumped in the river in the southern state when gunmen opened fire and were later rescued, Omire said. The attack was claimed by MEND, which said it killed all 15 people aboard.
Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Total SA and Eni SpA run joint ventures with state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. that pump most of the country’s oil. Nigeria depends on crude exports for more than 95 percent of foreign income and 80 percent of government revenue, according to the Petroleum Ministry.
While Okah denies being a leader of MEND, he has said he commands the support of many armed factions in Nigeria’s oil region.
Attacks including kidnappings and bombing of oil installations by groups including MEND cut more than 28 percent of Nigeria’s oil output between 2006 and 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The violence declined after thousands of fighters accepted a government amnesty offer in 2009 and disarmed.