Six militants, one soldier die in Niger Delta gun battle

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Six militants, one soldier die in Niger Delta gun battle

Postby Richard Akindele » Wed Aug 23, 2006 7:13 pm

ABUJA, 08/22 - Six youths and a soldier died Monday during a gun battle between soldiers of the special joint task force (JTF) deployed to Nigeria`s restive but oil-rich Niger Delta region and suspected militant youths, task force spokesman, Maj. Mohammed Sagir, confirmed.

The militants, from the oil producing states of Delta and Bayelsa, were said to be on a mission to rescue some indigenous oil workers of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), held hostage in Ekeremor, when they were accosted by the soldiers from the military task force deployed to the region to keep the peace.

PANA learnt that the services of the youths were engaged by a known militant leader, believed to be sympathetic to the Delta State government, who wanted to prove a point by rescuing the workers without negotiating with the kidnappers.

The shooting started when the militants on the rescue mission ran into the soldiers, who were ignorant of their rescue operation. Out of suspicion, the troops were said to have opened fire on the boats carrying the youths, who also returned fire.

Six of the youths were said to have been killed on the spot, while one of the two soldiers who sustained injuries died later. Meanwhile, the JTF has temporarily halted its cordon and search operation aimed at stopping the activities of the militants in the Niger Delta.

President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered a crackdown on the militants last week, after 15 expatriate oil workers were abducted in the latest wave of hostage taking in the area.

At least 10 of the hostages have been released unharmed. The abductions and attacks on oil facilities have slashed Nigeria`s daily oil production of 2.5 million barrels by 25 percent, and forced at least two companies to pull out of the Niger Delta region.

Angola Press
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