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MEND declares ceasefire in oil war

LAGOS, September 21 – The most prominent armed group in southern Nigeria, MEND, declared a ceasefire on Sunday following a week of attacks on oil industry targets after launching an "oil war".

"Effective 0100 Hrs, September 21, 2008, exactly one week (since) we launched our reprisal, MEND will begin a unilateral ceasefire till further notice," the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said in a statement.

The ceasefire comes after MEND claimed a series of attacks particularly targeting Royal Dutch Shell.

Shell confirmed only two of the six attacks claimed by the group.

The company on Friday declared force majeure on exports from the Bonny terminal to release it from contractual delivery obligations as a result of the attacks.

On Saturday, MEND said it had destroyed a pipeline run by Shell the previous day.

Oil and gas account for 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings in Nigeria, Africa\’s most populous nation with 140 million people.

Production currently ranges between 1.8 million and two million barrels per day compared with 2.6 million bpd two years ago, with unrest having taken a toll on output.

MEND declared "war" on the oil industry a week ago in what it said was a response to an attack by the Nigerian army on its positions.

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It warned in its statement on Sunday that it would end the ceasefire if attacked again.

"We hope that the military has learnt a bitter lesson," the statement said. "The next unprovoked attack will start another oil war".

MEND contends that the oil wealth of Nigeria — now Africa\’s second largest petroleum exporter after recently being overtaken by Angola — does not sufficiently benefit the local population.

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