Nigeria militants claim clash with military killed 4 soldiers

Nigeria’s main rebel group MEND has claimed that a clash between its men and military forces dispatched by the government to secure the oil-rich region, has left four soldiers dead.

Updated: Jun 10, 2010, 23:12 PM IST

Abuja: Nigeria’s main rebel group MEND
has claimed that a clash between its men and military forces
dispatched by the government to secure the oil-rich region,
has left four soldiers dead.

The claim has, however, been denied by the military
which said no such confrontation took place.

In a statement to a news agency today, the Movement for the
Emancipation of the Niger Delta said they clashed with the
government troops called Joint Task Force (JTF) after one of
the rebel`s patrol boats ran into two gunboats of the JTF at
Ogulagha in Delta state.

"A firefight ensued which lasted about 30 minutes.
None of our fighters were injured but reports reaching us
indicate the JTF lost 4 soldiers with an unspecified number
injured".

MEND said describing the clash as "bloody
confrontation".

But a spokesman for the military, Lieutenant-Colonel
Timothy Antigha said no such confrontation took place but said
its forces clashed with some oil thieves who were siphoning
off crude oil from pipes.

He denied any shootout or loss of lives.

Nigeria is Africa`s biggest oil producer and the Niger
Delta region is the zone from which the drillings take place.

Rebels in the region have demanded total control of
the oil wealth, arguing that the area is highly underdeveloped
despite the 85 per cent dependency on oil revenue by the
government and people of the African country.

Late President Umaru Musa Yar`Adua had granted amnesty
to the militants but MEND had rejected this opting to commence
a different negotiation with the government by appointing some
mediators.

However, some other rebel groups accepted the
programme and turned in their arms during a disarmament
exercise.

President Goodluck Jonathan who took over from
Yar`Adua after his death last month has promised to go ahead
with the amnesty programme.

PTI