LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Planted explosives damaged a Royal Dutch Shell PLC (NYSE:RDS A) oil flow station in the Niger Delta, a company spokesman said Wednesday, marking the latest attack in a region supposedly brought under control by a government amnesty program.
A previously unknown militant group claimed responsibility for the attack Tuesday on the Kokori oil flow station, operated by a Shell subsidiary in Nigeria. Shell spokesman Tony Okonedo said the flow station was not in use and was unmanned at the time of the explosion, so there were no injuries.
"It hadn't been producing for some time," Okonedo said.
In a statement to Nigerian newspapers, a group calling itself The People's Patriotic Revolutionary Force of the Joint Revolutionary Council claimed it attacked the flow station early Tuesday morning. It warned all foreign oil companies to leave the oil-rich Delta immediately or face further violence.
"We hereby announce the resumption of fresh and final hostilities in the Niger Delta and beyond," the group said.
The Joint Revolutionary Council is a smaller militant group that once claimed to be allied with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the main militant force in the Delta. It has carried out attacks in the past, some of which MEND later denied being involved in. However, ties between groups remain murky and criminal gangs sometimes describe themselves as politically motivated militants when it suits them.
Militants in the Delta have attacked pipelines, kidnapped petroleum company employees and fought government troops since January 2006. They demand that the federal government send more oil-industry funds to Nigeria's southern region, which remains poor despite five decades of oil production.
The region largely became peaceful after many militants laid down their arms in a government-sponsored amnesty program. However, militant groups and criminal gangs have grown increasingly restless as they say the government has stalled efforts at making a lasting peace in the region. Earlier this week, unknown gunmen in the region kidnapped three sports journalists working for an African satellite network.
Attacks in the Niger Delta have moved oil prices worldwide in the past. Benchmark crude for April delivery was up 41 cents to $80.09 a barrel in electronic trading Wednesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 98 cents to settle at $79.68 on Tuesday.
Oil prices have been trading between $70 and $80 since July as demand remains weak in the U.S. and other industrial countries.