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In Nigeria 'oil war,' militants step up attacks

MEND militants have united against foreign oil interests in the wake of a military crackdown.

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United: MEND militants in July patrolled the Bonny River in the Niger Delta, which now hosts a renewed uprising against the military.

EPA

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A rare military raid on a militant camp in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta last week points to a new, tough approach by the Nigerian military that could force the region into a deeper state of anarchy.

Militants have responded to the pre-dawn raid with a series of deadly counter attacks on oil facilities and military positions. The delta's most prominent rebel group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) issued a statement Sunday via e-mail declaring an "oil war."

"MEND has declared an oil war in response to the unprovoked aerial and marine attacks on a MEND position in Rivers state of Nigeria on September 13, 2008 by the armed forces of Nigeria," read the statement.

MEND emerged as a fighting force in the delta almost three years ago. Since then, it has sought to portray itself as a unified political militant group. But the reality has been somewhat different with MEND operating as an umbrella organization for a host of armed gangs. Their coordinated attacks against oil infrastructure and personnel have slashed Nigerian oil output by a fifth.

Following the Sept. 13 military attack, formerly disparate gangs are looking increasingly unified, raising fears that long-running unrest in the delta could hit new levels. "When it comes to a common enemy, we all help each other," says a senior MEND leader, who declined to be identified. "The Army is not as formidable as they say, and we are ready to take them on."

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