Twelve police officers 'missing' in Nigeria

 

Militants in Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta ambushed a group of police officers as they sat stranded in a boat in the region's winding creeks, leaving at least 12 “missing” in the most serious attack in months in a region vital to the country's finances,.

It remains unclear who carried out the attack on Friday near the village of Azuzama in Bayelsa state, though a major militant group only days earlier threatened it would resume attacks following the arrest and imprisonment of its leader in South Africa.

However, like most violence in the Niger Delta, the motives behind the assault remained as murky as the muddy creek waters flowing through a region vital to US oil supplies.

The militants attacked the contingent of police officers, who were on an unspecified special assignment, after their boat broke down near the village, Bayelsa state police spokesman Alex Akhigbe said.

"Their boat developed some mechanical fault," he said. "While they were trying to fix the boat, they were ambushed by some militants."

Mr Akhigbe declined to say what the officers' special assignment was, or whether the authorities believed they had died in the attack, though he revealed that a special rescue team had been assembled for the "recovery" of the officers.

Nigeria's Niger Delta, a region of palm groves and swamps about the size of Portugal, has been producing crude for foreign oil companies for more than 50 years.

Despite the billions of dollars flowing into Nigeria's government, many in the delta remain desperately poor, living in polluted waters without access to proper medical care, education or work.

The poor conditions sparked an uprising in 2006 by militants and opportunistic criminals who blew up oil pipelines and kidnapped foreign workers.

By 2009, most gave up their weapons as part of a government amnesty program that saw ex-fighters offered cash payments and the possibility of job training.

However, while some militant leaders now live in the country's capital and enjoy the privilege of diplomatic passports, few in the delta have seen the promised benefits and sporadic kidnappings and attacks continue.

Even more worrying for foreign oil companies is the continued tapping of their pipelines and the theft of crude oil from them.

Royal Dutch Shell, the dominant company in the region, blames the oil theft for major environmental damage and says criminals steal as much as much as 150,000 barrels of crude a day.

Shell produced about 800,000 barrels of oil a day in 2011. The International Energy Agency estimated that the theft of crude oil alone in Nigeria cost the country about 7 billion US dollars (£4.5 billion) a year.

Nigeria, which produces about 2 million of barrels of oil a day, is a major crude oil supplier to the US.

Mr Akhigbe declined to say whether police had any suspects in the attack. On Wednesday, the one-time main militant group in the region, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, threatened to launch a series of attacks over the arrest and sentencing of Henry Okah, a gunrunner long suspected by officials of being a leader of the group.

However, experts believe the militant group has lost much of its operational capability after Okah's arrest over the 2010 car bomb attack in Nigeria's capital Abuja that killed at least a dozen people.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy