The Nigerian Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the main rebel group in the area, said it killed 15 security personnel in an attack in the southern oil-producing Bayelsa state.
Two rebels also died in yesterday’s gunfight, which lasted for more than 40 minutes at a river in the Azuzuama area in Southern Ijaw local government region, MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo said in an e-mailed statement today.
“All oil companies and the public are advised to ignore the false sense of security,” portrayed by the security agencies, Gbomo said. “We remain resolute in our resumption of hostilities.”
The attack comes after MEND warned on April 3 they would resume their operations in Africa’s largest oil producer on April 5 after their suspected leader, Henry Okah, was sentenced to 24 years in prison in South Africa.
The Nigerian military is on “red alert” in the region following the threat, Chris Olukolade, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. The Joint Task Force in the region is also on alert, he said in a text message in response to questions.
“Maritime and air assets have also been mobilized and patrols intensified both on land and waterways,” Olukolade said.
The rebel group will start to carry out “a plague of attacks,” Gbomo said last week. “The attacks will be sustained until an unreserved apology is offered to MEND and the Nigerian government shows their willingness for dialogue.”
Bayelsa state police spokesman Kingsley Omire said today 11 policemen were still missing after unknown gunmen opened fire when they were on a boat heading to Azuzuama on April 5. The boat was carrying 15 policemen and four of the policemen jumped into the river and were rescued, he said.
Omire said it was too early to identify the attackers.
A South African court sentenced Okah to 24 years in jail after he was found guilty of 13 counts of terrorism, including a bombing that killed 12 people in the capital, Abuja, on Oct. 1, 2010. MEND claimed the attack. While Okah denies he leads the group, he has said he commands the support of many armed factions in Nigeria’s oil region.
Attacks including kidnappings and bombing of oil installations by groups including MEND cut more than 28 percent of Nigeria’s oil output between 2006 and 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The violence declined after thousands of fighters accepted a government amnesty offer in 2009 and disarmed.