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Oil tanker attacked off Nigeria.

1/21/2009 10:57:34 AM

Armed men in speedboats have abducted a Romanian crew member after an attack on an oil tanker off Nigeria's southern coast, security sources say.

The MT Meredith, loaded with 4,000 tonnes of diesel, was badly damaged in the attack early on Wednesday.

"The ship called for assistance as its engine and superstructure were reported to have been seriously damaged," a private security source, who asked not to be named, said.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), which wants greater autonomy for the region, claimed that an "affiliate group" carried out the attack.

"This recent attack should send a clear message to the oil companies that even with the four Mantra class seaward defence boats and two Augusta helicopters acquired by the navy, the only thing that can stop attacks is justice," a Mend statement said.

"Mend is in touch with the group and will ensure the abducted man is released unharmed at the earliest convenience."

The tanker was believed to be travelling from Lagos to the main oil city of Port Harcourt when it was attacked at the Bonny Fairway Buoy.

Oil industry targeted

The incident is the latest in a series of violent attacks off the Niger delta, home to the country's oil and gas industry.

On Sunday, fighters attacked a loading vessel, a tanker and a tug boat at a crude oil platform operated by the Shell oil company and took eight crew members hostage.

One person was killed in the attack, a military spokesman said.

Pipelines, facilities and personnel form oil companies operating in the region have been frequent targets of violence in the past three years, with kidnappings of both local and foreign workers.

A number of armed groups and criminal gangs operate in the delta.

The unrest has reduced the country's oil output by more than one quarter, down to around two million barrels a day from 2.6 million about three years ago. 2003 - 2009

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Date:Jan 29, 2009
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