Oil rebels declare war in Nigeria

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The main militant group in Nigeria's southern oil region declared a state of war yesterday after two days of clashes with the armed forces, raising the spectre of a stepped-up conflict in Africa's oil giant.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has focused mostly on hobbling Nigeria's oil industry since it emerged nearly three years ago, bombing pipelines in hopes of forcing the federal government to send more revenues to the impoverished oil-producing south.

But a military task force involving marine, land and air forces has stepped up its activities in recent weeks, and the militant group said that two days of relatively rare ground battles with the military meant the region was in a state of war.