The main militant group in restive southern Nigeria said Tuesday that it has bombed three major oil pipelines.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said in a statement from an e-mail address frequently used by the group that it had attacked three major pipelines in Bayelsa state at 1 a.m. (0000 GMT).
"Fighters of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta attacked and destroyed three major pipelines. ... We will continue indefinitely with attacks on all pipelines, platforms and support vessels," the statement promised.
The claim was not immediately verifiable by the Nigerian authorities or by Eni SpA, whose subsidiary Agip operates the Brass export terminal, but previous announcements of attacks have proved true. The terminal exports 200,000 barrels of crude per day.
However, a private security contractor, who is not authorized to speak to the media, confirmed that a large oil slick was spreading down the river from the Brass area. The state police chief said investigations were ongoing.
A previous bombing by MEND in December of 2005 knocked out nearly a quarter of production in Africa's largest oil exporter, and that has still not been restored. The militant group also recently claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of six foreign oil workers last week from a Chevron-operated facility and on Tuesday sent photos of them from the same e-mail address used to claim responsibility for the bombings.
MEND members say they are fighting for a greater share of the tens of billions of dollars of oil revenues generated by their impoverished region, and the freedom of two leaders on trial on treason and corruption charges.
Despite its oil wealth, Nigeria remains deeply impoverished and riddled by massive government corruption. Militant attacks in the west African country, which produces the highly desirable light sweet crude oil that is easy to refine, often rattle oil markets already jittery over instability in the Middle East.