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Nigeria militants warn over attacks

The main militant group in Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta has said it will launch new attacks, despite a recent military crackdown.

The warning by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta came as Royal Dutch Shell's Nigerian subsidiary announced one of its major pipelines in the region suffered enough damage to affect crude oil shipments.

The militant group, known by the acronym Mend, said it had ambushed 14 army gunboats that were heading toward one of their camps on Thursday.

Mend said it had killed 10 soldiers and injured 17 others in the fight, but a military spokesman denied the group's claims. "They have lost the struggle and they are using collaborators in the media to regain their initiatives," Lt Col Timothy Antigha said.

However, an official at a hospital in Delta state said doctors had treated at least nine soldiers wounded in an attack by militants in the delta.

On Wednesday night, a military operation freed 19 hostages in the oil region held by Mend - including seven expatriate workers. Mend promised to launch new assaults despite losing the hostages.

"We will soon commence with an all-out attack on oil installations across the Niger Delta," Mend said.

President Goodluck Jonathan, who is from the Niger Delta, praised the soldiers for the rescue on his official profile on Facebook. "For the Niger Delta, I believe the worst is over," Mr Jonathan said.

Mr Jonathan's hopeful message came as Shell declared "force majeure" on its Bonny Light crude oil shipments. The term is used when it is impossible for an oil company to cover the promised supply from the field.

Shell said the damage occurred on its Trans Niger pipeline, a major conduit for Shell through the Niger Delta. The company said it had no information about what caused the damage, but said an investigation was ongoing.

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