Nigerian militants launched a string of attacks on the world’s eighth largest oil exporter on Saturday, abducting nine foreign workers from an offshore barge and attacking at least two other facilities.
Militants from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said they were targeting all oil pipelines, production platforms and export terminals in Delta state, which accounts for about a quarter of Nigeria’s 2.4 million barrels per day production.
“A barge was attacked by several speed boats. There was an exchange of fire and nine foreigners were kidnapped,” an oil industry source said, adding that the barge, operated by U.S. oil services company Willbros Group, was operating offshore in the Forcados area of Delta state.
A Shell oil facility near the 380,000 barrel-per-day Forcados export terminal, also in Delta state, was attacked and burst into flames, but a company source said the fire was extinguished.
A pipeline in the area was also attacked, an oil industry source said. Shell officials were not able to specify the impact on oil production.
Militants said they also destroyed a gas pipeline operated by state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. running from the Escravos area in Delta state to the Kaduna refinery in northern Nigeria.
“Workers in the oil industry are hereby requested to vacate all installations with immediate effect,” the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said.
“All pipelines, flowstations and crude loading platforms will be targeted for destruction within the next few hours by our units which entered into Delta state in good numbers.”
The militant group wants more local control over the oil wealth of the Niger delta.
The latest wave of militant violence follows helicopter gunship attacks on targets in Delta state by the Nigerian military earlier this week.
The military said their attacks were aimed at gangs stealing crude oil from pipelines in Delta state, but community leaders said they targeted villages suspected of harboring militants.
An earlier wave of militant attacks on Nigeria’s oil industry in December and January cut up to 10 percent of the OPEC nation’s output. Militants kidnapped four foreign oil workers in January for 19 days and killed at least 14 soldiers in one oil platform attack.
“Expatriates must realize that they have been caught up in a war and the Nigerian government can do nothing to guarantee the security of anyone,” the militants said in an email. REUTERS