Several sailors were injured after a gunbattle between speedboat-borne militants and a Canadian vessel carrying oil. The militants were repulsed after boarding the petroleum ship, which was being escorted by navy seamen.
Militants in southern Nigeria ambushed a vessel belonging to Canada's Addax Petroleum Corp on Monday but were repelled after a gunbattle in which several naval personnel were injured, security sources said.
Gunmen in speedboats ambushed the vessel and eight navy seamen escorting it as they travelled from the Calabar area near Nigeria's southeastern border with Cameroon towards Rivers state in the Niger Delta, home to Africa's biggest oil industry.
Navy spokesman Henry Babalola said there had been only a brief exchange of gunfire when the militants boarded the ship, because of the "combustible nature" of the cargo. A senior state security official said the attackers had been repelled and the vessel had docked at Bonny, where one of the country's largest oil export terminals is located.
"Three naval personnel and one civilian were injured. One other naval personnel is missing and is presumed dead," the state security official said, asking not to be named.
Addax said it would make a statement later.
A private security contractor working in the oil industry confirmed there were casualties and said the injured were being treated for gunshot wounds at a clinic in Bonny.
Militants who say they are fighting for greater local control of the delta's natural resources launched a campaign of violent sabotage against the oil industry in early 2006 which has forced the world's eighth-biggest exporter to cut output.
But the line between political agitation and criminality has become blurred, with gangs kidnapping oil workers for ransom and funding themselves by stealing crude oil.
President Umaru Yar'Adua's year-old administration has said it plans to hold a summit with Niger Delta communities to try to address the root causes of the unrest but has also promised a crackdown on militant camps in the region.
Date created : 2008-06-09