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Africa

Main militant group declares 60-day ceasefire

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-07-15

Nigeria’s most prominent rebel group has said it would observe a 60-day ceasefire from Wednesday after the release of rebel leader Henry Okah. The fighting has severely impaired the oil and gas industry operating in the country.

REUTERS - Nigeria’s most prominent militant group said it would observe a 60-day ceasefire from Wednesday after the release of rebel leader Henry Okah.


The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said it was also halting its attacks, which have crippled Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry, to allow for government peace talks.


“Hopefully, the ceasefire period will create an enabling environment for progressive dialogue,” MEND said in a statement.


Okah was released from detention in the central city of Jos on Monday after being the first senior militant to accept President Umaru Yar’Adua’s amnesty offer.


Okah told Reuters on Tuesday militant violence would likely continue until the government began talks with rebel groups.


Analysts had also expected MEND to continue to sabotage oil facilities following Monday’s attack on a Lagos oil dock, the first outside the Niger Delta since starting its latest string of attacks.


The violence has forced Royal Dutch Shell, U.S. oil major Chevron and Italy’s Agip to cut around 300,000 barrels per day in the last six weeks and has helped support global oil prices.


MEND, a loose faction of militant groups, said on Monday it wanted talks with the government but also threatened to intensify attacks.


The release of Okah has been one of MEND’s key demands since launching its campaign of violence against the oil sector in early 2006.


Many suspect Okah is the brains behind MEND, but he has denied being a leader of the group.
 

Date created : 2009-07-15