Nigeria militants say attack two Shell oil pipelines

Nigeria's main militant group said on Sunday its fighters had attacked two Royal Dutch Shell oil pipelines in Rivers state, taking its latest offensive to the eastern Niger Delta for the first time, Reuters reported.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said it had attacked Shell's pipelines at Adamakiri and at Kula, both in Rivers, early on Sunday, as part of a series of strikes it has dubbed "Hurricane Piper Alpha".

"Piper Alpha unleashed its fury in Rivers state today... leaving in its wake two battered oil installations," the group said in a statement.

There was no immediate confirmation from Shell or from the Nigerian military.

The attacks are the first to strike Rivers state, the easternmost of the three main states in the Niger Delta, since the militants launched their latest campaign of sabotage following a military offensive in the western delta last month.

Persistent acts of sabotage by MEND over the past three years have cut oil output in the OPEC member, the world's eighth biggest crude oil exporter, to less than two thirds of its installed capacity of 3 million barrels per day .

The group first burst onto the scene in late 2005, knocking out more than a quarter of Nigeria's oil output -- then around 2.4 million bpd -- in a matter of weeks.

But the latest campaign has nibbled further at production.

Italian energy firm Agip said on Friday an attack claimed by MEND on one of its oil and gas pipelines in Bayelsa state had halted production of around 33,000 barrels of oil and 2 million cubic metres of gas per day.

Shell said on Thursday some oil production had been halted following an attack on the Trans Ramos pipeline late on Wednesday at Aghoro-2 community in Bayelsa.

U.S. energy firm Chevron shut down its operations around Delta state after MEND's first pipeline attack in its latest campaign on May 24, halting around 100,000 barrels per day of output.

MEND has has dubbed its offensive "Hurricane Piper Alpha" after the North Sea oil platform that blew up in July 1998, the worst ever offshore oil disaster, and warned that it might attack deep-water facilities off the Nigerian coast.

Security sources say some oil firms have been removing non-essential personnel from some offshore sites.

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