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Rebels blamed for oil attacks announce truce

  • Story Highlights
  • Nigerian rebels say truce will begin midnight Tuesday; covers Niger Delta region
  • Rebels have bombed pipelines and kidnapped hundreds of foreign oil workers
  • They claim to be motivated by a desire to get more oil wealth for people in the region
  • On Thursday, the group took credit for attacking a Shell oil facility
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(CNN) -- A Nigerian rebel movement blamed for an number of recent attacks on the African country's oil industry announced a unilateral truce Sunday after an appeal for negotiations by tribal leaders.

"Effective 12 midnight on Tuesday, June 24, 2008, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta will be observing a unilateral cease-fire in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria until further notice," the rebels said in a statement attributed to Jomo Gbomo, their leader's nom de guerre.

"We are respecting an appeal by the Niger Delta elders to give peace and dialogue another chance."

MEND has bombed pipelines and kidnapped hundreds of foreign oil workers, typically releasing them unharmed, sometimes after receiving a ransom payment. The rebels hope to secure a greater share of oil wealth for people in the Niger Delta, where more than 70 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day.

Nigeria is the fourth-largest supplier of oil to the United States, and analysts say that strife there is among several factors that have helped fuel a year-long spike in crude oil prices. The Nigerian government has proposed a peace summit to find a solution to the region's problems, but an immediate resolution is not apparent.

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Last Thursday, oil production was shut down at an offshore Nigerian facility after an armed attack by a powerful militant group from the Delta region, Shell said.

MEND said it conducted the attack and seized an American oil worker.

The Bonga oil facility is 65 miles offshore in the Gulf of Guinea and produces around 200,000 barrels of crude oil a day.

"The location for today's attack was deliberately chosen to remove any notion that off-shore oil exploration is far from our reach," MEND said in a statement.

"The oil companies and their collaborators do not have any place to hide in conducting their nefarious activities."

It is the latest incident of oil-industry sabotage in petroleum-rich Nigeria, the fourth largest supplier of oil to the United States.

MEND said in a statement that its main target was the "main computerized control room responsible for coordinating the entire crude oil export operations," but that effort was not successful.

"Our detonation engineers could not gain access to blow it up, but decided against smoking out the occupants by burning down the facility to avoid loss of life," the group said.

MEND said it captured an American from an oil services company called Tidex, so the Nigerian military doesn't slough off "this humiliating breach" as an accident.

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