Nigeria: Gunfire in the Delta


October 7, 2006: Rebels are demanding $10 million each for the four British oil workers they kidnapped four days ago. The men were seized in a saloon, inside a residential compound for foreigners. Other rebels accused the army of burning down a village, suspected of supporting the rebels, after all the inhabitants had fled. The army denied this. But in the past, when civilians killed soldiers, usually in the midst of some tribal war, the soldiers would retaliate savagely against local civilians. Apparently the rebels hope that their unilateral ceasefire will interrupt army retaliation plans. That may not work, as individual soldiers, in small groups, often strike out at civilians suspected of connections with the rebels. The army has already destroyed, in an organized fashion, villages believed to harbor rebels or, more correctly, gangsters who moonlight as rebels.

The basic problem in the Niger delta is oil money and corruption. The rebels are armed locals who steal oil from pipelines, buy weapons, and are trying to get the government to clean up the corruption and spend more of the oil revenue on basic services for Nigerians living in the region. The government has agreed, but, as usual, that's all. The corruption and government incompetence goes on. The government and oil companies throw some money at the rebels and protesting civilians, putting out the small fires of anger as they crop up. But by not dealing with the underlying problems, you still have all those angry Nigerians in the Niger delta, stealing oil, buying guns and getting more aggressive.

October 5, 2006: The Niger delta rebels declared a unilateral ceasefire, after several days of attacks on the army and oil workers.

October 4, 2006: Rebels attacked an army patrol, sinking two boats and killing nine soldiers in the Niger delta. The rebels say they are moving several hundred gunmen into position to make more attacks.

October 3, 2006: Four foreign oil workers were kidnapped in the Niger delta.

October 2, 2006: Several dozen rebels in speedboats, attacked troops in boats guarding a shipment of supplies to an oil production facility in the Niger delta. Two army boats were sunk, and four soldiers and one civilian were killed. The rebels took prisoner 25 oil workers, but soon freed nine of them. In a separate attack, a boat carrying oil workers and supplies was attacked, resulting in several wounded, but no dead.


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