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Gunmen invade Shell oil facility in Nigeria

Gunmen have invaded an oilfield control station in Bayelsa state and are holding several soldiers and oil workers hostage.

india Updated: Dec 15, 2006 14:55 IST

Gunmen have invaded an oilfield control station operated by Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria's Bayelsa state and are holding several soldiers and oil workers hostage, security and industry sources said on Friday.

It was the second attack against Western oil interests in Bayelsa in eight days, after militants tried to destroy a major oil export terminal and kidnapped four foreign workers on Dec 7.

"Gunmen attacked a Shell logistics base and currently hold both naval and other personnel," a security source said.

A Shell source said the facility was an oilfield control station at Nun River, pumping 12,000 barrels per day, and that the attackers had occupied it on Thursday.

Production is routinely shut down when such attacks occur.

The same facility was occupied by armed men on Oct. 10 for two days during which 60 oil workers were kept against their will over a financial dispute with Shell.

"It appears this is a community problem. The community says Shell owes it 120 million naira ($937,000)," a military source said.

Conflicts between communities and Western oil companies are common in Nigeria, the world's eighth largest oil exporter.

Village chiefs sometimes organise armed invasions of nearby facilities to exert pressure on companies to deliver more cash, jobs or investment.

These invasions are normally resolved after a few days through negotiations involving the government.

Invasions are one of a variety of security issues facing Western oil companies in the Niger Delta including violent crime, kidnapping and extortion.

Resentment against the industry is fuelled by poverty and neglect. Militancy for political ends is also on the rise.

Nigerian oil production is already down by about a fifth because of attacks by militants in another part of the delta in February.

The four foreign oil workers captured last week from the nearby Brass export terminal are still in captivity.

The group holding the men—three Italians and one Lebanese—has made several demands including more regional control over the delta's oil wealth.

First Published: Dec 15, 2006 14:55 IST