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Senior rebels disarm in Nigeria's oil-rich Delta

  • Story Highlights
  • 2 key rebels in Nigeria's oil-rich Delta accept government offer of amnesty
  • MEND field commanders Farah Dagogo, Akete Tom are laying down weapons
  • Dagogo urged other militants to disarm
From Christian Purfoy
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LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) -- Two senior rebel leaders in Nigeria's oil-rich Delta region accepted a government offer of amnesty to militants who disarm.

Farah Dagogo and Akete Tom, both field commanders for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), laid down their weapons Saturday, said Timiebi Agary, spokeswoman of the amnesty committee.

A third leader, Tompolo, is in talks with the amnesty committee in the capital, Abuja.

Amnesty officials said no money was promised to the leaders. Some MEND members have taken to the streets in Bayelsa state and accused the government of not paying them money it promised for disarming.

The amnesty committee has denied the allegation and said it is only offering rehabilitation programs.

In a news release announcing his decision, Dagogo urged other militants to disarm.

"I appeal to those still determined to fight on, to consider first the option of dialogue," he said. "We are accepting this amnesty with the hope that it will usher in a true spirit of reconciliation exemplified by dialogue and federal presence with an aim to addressing the root cause of militancy in the Niger Delta."

All outgoing MEND commanders have been replaced, the group said. It has threatened to renew its attacks now that it's under new leadership.

In August, Cmdr. Ebikabowei Victor Ben and some of his fighters handed over a stack of weapons, including grenade launchers and shotguns.

The government has offered unconditional amnesty to fighters in an attempt to stop attacks in the Delta region. Some MEND members have shunned the amnesty offer, saying it does not address the region's problems.

MEND has repeatedly criticized the government and said the region's oil wealth has been stolen or given to other regions instead of improving the lives of delta residents.

Conflict in the region has affected oil production in Nigeria, Africa's largest producer. The rebel group has destroyed several oil facilities and forced the West African nation to cut its exports by as many as 1 million barrels per day, or 40 percent. Violence in the region has included attacks on pipelines.

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