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Militants Attack Nigerian Oil Company

Armed militants launched a wave of attacks across Nigeria's troubled Niger delta Saturday, blowing up oil and gas pipelines and seizing nine foreign oil workers in the latest violence to strike the troubled region.

In an e-mail to The Associated Press, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed responsibility for the attacks and for kidnapping the oil workers from a boat belonging to U.S. oil service firm Wilbros. The militants said those abducted included three Americans, two Egyptians, two Thais, one Briton and one Filipino.

A Wilbros official confirmed the pre-dawn raid, saying more than 40 militants overpowered military guards on the boat near the oil port city of Warri. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. He said Wilbros was working on a contract with Royal Dutch Shell at the time of the attack.

Maj. Said Hammed, spokesman for a military task force charged with security in the Niger Delta, confirmed there was an attack on an oil company, but he had no details.

The militants claimed responsibility for other attacks in the volatile Niger Delta, including the destruction of Shell's Forcados crude export terminal, the rupturing of a pipeline manifold and blasting of a state-run gas pipeline that feeds gas from the Escravos gas plant in the delta to the country's commercial capital, Lagos.

A Shell spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media about the attacks, said one pipeline was ruptured near Shell's Chanomi Creek facility, while another was ruptured and set ablaze near Shell's Forcados export terminal. The Shell official said the fire was quickly put out. Both facilities are in the western delta.

On Friday, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported that militant commander Godswill Tamuno had announced his Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta was declaring "total war" on foreign oil interests and warned them to leave the oil-rich southern delta by midnight.

The same group has issued similar threats for more than a month and claimed responsibility for attacking two pipelines and abducting for foreign oil workers who were later released.

The group says it is fighting for greater local control of oil wealth in the impoverished region.

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