MEND says extradited leader shot dead, govt denies claim


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MEND says extradited leader shot dead, govt denies claim

There was a momentary scare in Nigeria’s oil producing Niger Delta region Tuesday (19 Feb) evening after the region’s largest militant group claimed one of its leaders has been shot dead while in government custody. But the federal government denied the claim, dousing fears of an escalation of the crisis that has plagued the volatile region and reduced Nigeria’s oil production. In a statement e-mailed to journalists Tuesday night, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) wrote: ”Disturbing reports just reaching us suggests that Henry Okah succumbed to injuries from gun shot wounds at about 0400 hrs today, February 19, 2007 at a military hospital in (northern) Kaduna state of Nigeria, after he was shot in what those interrogating him claim was an ‘accidental discharge’ from the automatic weapon from one of the guards. ”The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is giving the Federal Government of Nigeria within the next 24Hours to confirm or deny this murder rumour. Failure to do this will bring bloodbath in that region and beyond. We will not take prisoners from the military or oil workers,” said the statement, signed by MEND’s spokesman Jomo Gbomo. But a ranking government official told PANA the claim was not true, adding that Okah, a MEND leader who was extradited from Angola last week, was safe in the capital city of Abuja. Okah was arrested on gun running charges in Angola last year, prompting MEND to renew its campaign to cripple Nigeria’s oil export unless he is freed. Following a request by the Nigerian government, the militant leader was extradited to Nigeria last week.

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