Shell halts oil production after militant attack

June 19th, 2008 - 10:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Abuja, June 19 (DPA) Royal Dutch Shell said Thursday it had shut down production at its main offshore oil field in Nigeria after a militant attack. “I can confirm that the Bonga field in western Niger Delta was attacked early today,” Shell spokesman Precious Okolobo said.

“Production at the facility has been stopped, but we cannot confirm further details at the moment.”

Militant attacks have cut oil production in Nigeria by almost a quarter since the beginning of the year, contributing to sky-rocketing global oil prices.

The closing of the Bonga field, which can produce 225,000 barrels per day, cuts the West African nation’s capacity by around 10 percent.

The militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that it had captured an American citizen from oil services company Tidex in the process.

“This man was supposed to be released in exchange for all Niger Delta hostages being held in northern Nigeria by the Nigerian government,” a statement issued by the group said.

The group said it would release the hostage in a few hours to prevent “opportunists” ransoming the captive.

MEND said that it had attempted to gain access to the main control room for coordinating exports from the field but decided against burning down the facility “to avoid loss of life”.

However, MEND said that the facility would not be spared during the next attack.

“We ask all workers in the Bonga fields to evacuate for their own safety as the military cannot protect them,” it warned.

Army Lieutenant-Colonel Sagir Musa, spokesman of the troops responsible for providing security to oil-production facilities, confirmed the attack but said the situation had been brought under control.

Militants in the impoverished Niger Delta regularly attack oil production facilities and abduct oil workers as they press for a bigger say in oil exploitation in the area.

Nigeria is second only to Angola in oil production in Africa. In spite of its oil wealth, the majority of Nigerians live on below $1 a day.

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