Militants in Nigeria Attack Offshore Oil Rig Cutting ProductionBy Sarah Simpson
19 June 2008

Armed gunmen attacked an oil rig in Nigerian waters forcing the operator, Royal Dutch Shell, to shut down production from the area. In a separate but related incident, militants attacked a boat taking a foreign national aboard hostage. For VOA, Sarah Simpson has more from Lagos.

Royal Dutch Shell confirm that gunmen attacked one of their oil rigs in Nigeria in the early hours of Thursday morning. The attack forced the oil giant to shut down oil production from the area - reducing its daily oil production by 200,000 barrels.

This latest attack significantly reduces Nigerian crude production, already well below capacity due to sustained attacks from militant groups.

A Nigerian separatist militant levels his machine gun at reporters from his war boat on the Escravos River in southern Nigeria (File)Nigeria's main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, claimed responsibility for the attack.

MEND also says it took a foreign national hostage Thursday.

Security experts say the foreigner was not seized from the rig, but from a boat in nearby waters.

Hostage taking for ransom is common in the Niger Delta.

Attacks on offshore facilities are rare. Many oil industry officials consider offshore operations to be safer than operating onshore in the Niger Delta.

The Niger Delta remains desperately poor despite decades of oil production. The delta is awash with guns and much of the simmering anger in the region is directed towards the oil industry.

Groups like MEND say a greater share of Nigeria's oil revenue should go the region that produces the crude.

This latest oil industry attack targeted a rig some 100 kilometers out to sea in the Bonga oil field.

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer and most populous nation. However, oil industry attacks have cut the country's 2.5 million barrels a day oil production by more than a quarter.

Oil prices are at record highs on world markets. Attacks in Nigeria have contributed to the global high price of fuel.

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