Military, militants clash in Nigeria

Published: Friday 15 September 2006

At least 10 people died and several were injured in a clash between a joint military task force and militants in Bavelsa state of Nigeria. The clash followed a recent presidential directive ordering a crackdown on armed gangs operating in Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta region. The incident took place near the operation area of one Shell Petroleum Development Company.

The directive is intended to check the recent spate of hostage-taking and other criminal activities troubling the region. In August second week, militants had seized 14 expatriate oil workers. A top-level national security meeting was called following which joint military and police operations were undertaken at strategic locations in the delta region. Round-the-clock patrolling of the country's coastal waters is also being done to enable quick response to attacks by armed gangs and ensure a safe environment for industry operations.

Hostage-taking has become big business in the Niger delta, whose more than 20 million inhabitants remain largely impoverished despite the country's massive oil reserves. This has fuelled widespread resentment against the Nigerian government and oil companies. Hostage-takers often demand ransom or jobs and amenities for their communities.

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