A Nigerian militant group claiming responsibility for kidnapping foreign oil workers and for a string of attacks on oil plants on Wednesday welcomed a robbery that left nine people dead.

A statement sent from an e-mail address used by the group, which says it is holding four foreign oil men hostage, said Tuesday’s raid on the Italian energy firm Agip’s Port Harcourt base was part of a political struggle. “As a policy, our units have been directed to resort to armed robbery,” the message said, in response to a question about whether the kidnappers were behind the attack in which eight police and an oil worker were killed. But the spokesman did not claim direct responsibility for the assault. “The Niger Delta is saturated with small groups who fight for the cause, funding their operations by whatever means possible,” he wrote. “We are not going to stop such attacks by such bands in the delta for as long as it is not directed at ordinary citizens,” he added. On Tuesday, unidentified gunmen wearing camouflage fatigues and berets stormed the Agip Idustrial Area in the city of Port Harcourt, gunned down police and an employee, and robbed a bank in the complex before fleeing. The raid is the latest in a series of attacks blamed on the ethnic Ijaw militias that roam the waterways of the delta, a Scotland-sized swathe of swamp and mangrove forest that hosts Africa’s biggest oil industry. On January 11 four oil workers — an American, a Briton, a Bulgarian and a Honduran — were captured aboard their supply vessel off the delta coast. They are thought to be held by a gang demanding the release of two Ijaw leaders.

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