Mil­i­tants end Nige­ria oil search

30 killed in bid to res­cue team

Daily News - - WORLD -

AT LEAST 30 peo­ple in­clud­ing civil­ians and mem­bers of the mil­i­tary have died af­ter an at­tempted res­cue of an oil ex­plo­ration team kid­napped by sus­pected Boko Haram mil­i­tants in north-east Nige­ria, of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day.

The team search­ing for oil in Nige­ria’s con­flict-rid­den north­east was made up of mem­bers from the state oil firm and univer­sity re­searchers and staff, while the at­tempted res­cue was car­ried out by mil­i­tary per­son­nel and vig­i­lantes.

The mil­i­tary said a day ear­lier that it had re­cov­ered the bod­ies of nine sol­diers and a civil­ian dur­ing its res­cue of staff from the Nige­rian Na­tional Petroleum Cor­po­ra­tion (NNPC) who were on the sur­vey team.

The to­tal num­ber of mil­i­tary per­son­nel killed was 12, said one mil­i­tary source in Nige­ria’s north-east.

The mil­i­tary’s state­ment on Wed­nes­day did not re­fer to team mem­bers from the Univer­sity of Maiduguri, which contributed staff in­clud­ing ge­ol­o­gists to the team sur­vey­ing in the Lake Chad Basin re­gion.

A spokesman at the univer­sity, deputy di­rec­tor of In­for­ma­tion Ahmed Mo­hammed, said yes­ter­day two univer­sity aca­demics and at least one driver were among at least five dead.

Four others staff mem­bers from the univer­sity were miss­ing, he said.

Six­teen mem­bers of the Civil­ian Joint Task Force were also killed, Bunu Bakar, sec­re­tary of the armed vig­i­lante group, said.

Nige­ria’s oil min­is­ter said he was await­ing of­fi­cial con­fir­ma­tion from mil­i­tary author­i­ties on the kid­nap­ping and at­tempted res­cue of peo­ple in­clud­ing NNPC staff, de­clin­ing to com­ment on the death toll.

Nige­rian Min­is­ter of De­fence Mansur Ali blamed the sum­mer wet sea­son for the spike in at­tacks in the north­east and the loss of con­trol of ter­ri­tory that the army clawed back from Boko Haram last year.

“We can­not dom­i­nate the en­vi­ron­ment like what we do dur­ing the dry sea­son, but ef­fort is geared to­wards re­gain­ing back our ar­eas,” he said in Abuja af­ter an emer­gency meet­ing with Nige­ria’s act­ing pres­i­dent and mil­i­tary chiefs.

North-east­ern Nige­ria has been wracked for eight years by an Is­lamist in­sur­gency that has killed at least 20 000 peo­ple and forced about 2.7 mil­lion to flee their homes.

The NNPC, which con­tracted univer­sity staff, has for more than a year sur­veyed what it says may be vast oil re­serves in the Lake Chad Basin.

It is aim­ing to re­duce its reliance on the south­ern Niger Delta en­ergy hub, which last year was hit by mil­i­tant at­tacks on oil fa­cil­i­ties.

Nige­ria’s gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary have re­peat­edly said Boko Haram was on the verge of de­feat.

In De­cem­ber, Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari said the group’s last strong­hold, an en­clave in the Sam­bisa for­est, had fallen.

But in­sur­gents have launched at­tacks with re­newed zeal in the past few months.

The lat­est at­tack brought the death toll in Maiduguri and its en­vi­rons since early last month to at least 92.

Seven­teen peo­ple were killed in the city in one week this month. – Reuters

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