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Nigeria’s MEND Suspends Plans to Attack Mosques, Kill Clerics

Nigeria’s Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said it has suspended plans to bomb mosques and kill Muslim clerics after heeding appeals from religious groups and prominent citizens including Henry Okah.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s order yesterday to free some suspected Boko Haram terrorists, including all women, was also taken into “serious consideration” because it gave “room for genuine dialogue,” MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo said today in an e-mailed statement. The attacks, which were supposed to start May 31, are suspended “with immediate effect.”

MEND, the main rebel group in the oil-rich Niger River delta, said on April 15 it may call off “Operation Barbarossa” if Christian organizations and Okah, the group’s suspected leader, intervene. It also urged the Islamist militants of Boko Haram to stop attacking Christians and churches. 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.

Boko Haram has waged a violent campaign since 2009 to impose Islamic law in Africa’s largest oil producer that has killed hundreds of people in the mainly Muslim north and Abuja, the capital. The Nigerian military began an air and ground offensive last week after Jonathan imposed emergency rule in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa on May 14.

MEND also asked for the release of Okah and others standing trial for the 2010 Independence Day bombing in Abuja, the capital. Okah was on March 26 sentenced to 24 years in jail by a South African court on 13 counts of terrorism, including the Independence Day attack that killed 12 people.

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