Joint Military Task Force not yet aware of MENDS pipeline attacks ?

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The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said Monday it had blown up two major oil pipelines belonging to the Nigerian subsidiary of Shell – Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) – in Rivers State in the Niger Delta oil region.

”In keeping with our pledge to resume pipeline attacks within the next thirty days, detonation engineers backed by heavily armed fighters from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) today, Monday, July 28, 2008 at about 0115 hrs sabotaged two major pipelines in Rivers state of Nigeria,” MEND said in a statement emailed to the media Monday.

It said the first pipeline was located in Kula ”which has been previously sabotaged by us” and the second in Rumuekpe.

A spokesman for the Joint Military Task Force deployed to the region to protect oil facilities, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, said his office was not yet aware of the attack.

But SPDC Spokesman Precious Okolobo confirmed the attack, saying ”We are conducting an overflight of the area to assess the damage.”

In a statement on 23 July, MEND had threatened to blow up oil pipelines within the next 30 days in protest against a claim by the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that it paid US$12 million to militants in the Niger Delta for pipeline protection.

Though the NNPC later denied that claim, MEND said it was not part of the deal, and in turn accused the NNPC of paying US$25 million to some criminal gangs in the region as protection fees.

The attack on the Shell pipelines was the first by MEND since it ended its unilateral ceasefire in the region 12 July to protest Britain’s offer of military assistance to the Nigerian government to tackle the oil militants. Panapress .

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