The Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) Saturday reported the Nigerian military has launched a full scale offensive against its positions at Elemtombia in Rivers state in the oil producing Niger Delta region, causing the death of three MEND fighters.
A spokesman for the military task force deployed to the oil producing region,. Lt-Col. Sagir Musa, confirmed the attack, saying it was in retaliation for the attack on a military patrol at Elemtombia by the militants.
MEND said in a statement e-mailed to the media that the ”full scale aerial and marine offensive” on its positions started at 0900hrs, adding that the military used helicopter gunships, fighter jets and over 20 gun boats and landing craft ”with heavily armed soldiers mainly from the northern axis of Nigeria” It said while the militants had fired RPGs on two army attack helicopters, there were no news of ”enemy casualties […] Fierce fighting is still going on with MEND fighters adopting guerrilla tactics,” the statement said.
MEND said it held Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers state responsible for the offensive, vowing: ”All MEND positions in the Niger delta will respond to this unprovoked attack coming at a time the government is canvassing the so-called Niger Delta Ministry to hoodwink the people.”
The region’s largest militant group also warned oil companies to move out their workers within the next 24 hours ”because a hurricane is about to sweep through oil installations in the entire Niger Delta region.”
The attack comes a few days after the federal government announced the creation of a Niger Delta Ministry to ensure a rapid development of the oil region, an action observers said was aimed at pacifying the militants and other agitators in the Niger Delta.
But MEND has dismissed the plan to set up the ministry as a gimmick to deceive the people. Since launching its armed campaign in January 2006, MEND has contributed to slashing Nigeria’s oil production by a fifth through attacks on oil facilities and kidnapping of oil workers.
The local press reported during the week that the country’s new military leadership favours a more aggressive approach to dealing with the militants.