Nigeria: Israel to aid government forces to flush out rebels?

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The Nigerian government seeks Israeli warships and training as it prepares for an all-out-out military operation against rebel groups in the Niger Delta who have refused to surrender their weapons following the presidential amnesty offered to them.

Government officials said after the unconditional 60-day amnesty was offered to all rebels in July, 2009, they expected between 8,000 and 10,000 fighters to surrender and accept the presidential pardon, but only a few hundred of the projected 12,000-15,000 rebels have handed in their weapons.

A week after the amnesty was offered, a rebel faction attacked an oil installation in the Nigeria economic capital, Lagos, and stressed that major operations against oil establishments will continue once the 60-day cease-fire was over. The Nigerian government had been reported to dole out large amounts of money to rebel leaders to induce them to bring in their men, but sources in the Oil industry say the rebel leaders use the money to buy new arms.

Israel’s deputy prime minister, Avigdor Lieberman who recently visited Nigeria as part of a ten day African tour, with growing suggestions that the Israelis are looking to establish close military links with Nigeria, one of Africa’s main oil producers. United Press International reports that the Israeli prime minister was accompanied by a group of businessmen, most of whom are reported to be arms dealers, security advisers and representatives of Israel’s military industries.

The main rebel group in the region the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claim that the government refuses to address their demands to improve the living conditions of the delta’s impoverished tribes, and so have refused to cooperate. To this end the Nigerian government is preparing itself for tough a stand-off with the rebel factions in the vast labyrinth of mangrove swamps, creeks and rivers in the Niger Delta of southern Nigeria.

According to the Financial Times, only radical action by the Nigerian government will bring the Niger Delta crisis to an end at a time when oil revenue is tumbling and the country grapples with increasingly violent Muslim extremists in the north. Even though past military actions against the rebels have failed to stop the rebellion, the government hopes that foreign support from Israel will prove to be fruitful in its search for peace and stability in the Niger Delta.

Nigeria’s oil exports have since fallen by 40 percent since 2006, contributing to instability in world energy markets. The damage to Nigeria’s oil industry has allowed Angola, who has only a third of Nigeria’s oil reserves, to take over as Africa’s leading oil producer. The rebellion has mostly been directed against oil facilities run by Anglo-Dutch Shell, Chevron of the United States, ENI of Italy and Total of France.

The amnesty signed by the Nigerian government and rebels expires on October 4, 2009, and thereafter rebel groups who have refused to give peace, dialogue and civility a chance will face the Nigerian/Israeli Joint Military action insurgency, sources have suggested.

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