Nigerian Navy, militants trade charges over Niger Delta clash
The Nigeria Navy said it killed 12 Niger Delta militants Friday in the Alakiri creeks near Port Harcourt. In a swift reaction, the notorious militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said that the claim was false, the dpa reported. The Navy spokesman in Port Harcourt, Lieutenant Olabisi Wey, said that the militants were killed when they laid ambush on Navy personnel returning to base from patrol duties. He said that the 12 militants, operating in two speedboats, opened fire on the Navy personnel soon as they sighted the security operatives deployed in the Niger Delta to provide security for oil installations and expatriate workers. "The militants, however, fell to superior fire power as the men of the Navy returned their fire and killed all the 12," Wey said. He said that two of the Navy men suffered gunshot wounds. Wey said that the two speedboats used by the militants were destroyed and that two general purpose machine guns, three AK-47 rifles and 388 rounds of ammunition belonging to the militants were recovered from the scene of battle. MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo said that the claims were "at best a ploy to justify the Navy men's paycheque and relevance in the Niger Delta region." "No MEND unit or affiliated group has reported such heavy losses and boats. If this is not a lie, then the victims must be unarmed civilians killed in panic, the same way innocent youths riding in a boat for a burial in Bonny Island were killed some weeks ago," he said. "Hostages we have captured in the past will attest that the military is no match for us when we mean to confront them." Kidnappings of oil workers and destruction of oil installations in the Niger Delta have increased since 2006 as militant groups pressed demands by the highly impoverished people in the region to have a greater say in the exploitation of local oil and gas resources. Restiveness in the region led to a loss of more than a quarter of Nigeria's daily oil output of 2.1 million barrels earlier in the year and also contributed to sharp increases in the international price of crude oil.