Is the battel of the creeks here again?

YENAGOA, Nigeria — Four Nigeria soldiers are missing and presumed dead after an attack by gunmen in the southern oil-rich Niger Delta creeks, the military and a state government said Friday.

The soldiers, among them a lieutenant-colonel who was commander of a unit, were ambushed and attacked not far from where four marine policemen were shot dead at a checkpoint on Thursday, the same day the military came under fire.

“The JTF has declared missing the four personnel reportedly attacked by the gunmen and have engaged local divers to search for their corpses,” Timothy Antigha, spokesman for the special military unit, the Joint Task Force, told AFP.

Thursday’s attacks took place on waterways in Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s home state of Bayelsa.

The governor of Bayelsa state, Henry Seriake Dickson, in a statement “commiserated with the families of the officers and men of the Nigerian military, police and civilians killed by pirates yesterday at the Brass and Ogbia waterways”.

A militant group in the region, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), on Friday claimed it was behind the attack of the policemen. It gave no motive for the attack.

Antigha said the military were travelling in a civilian boat.

“They came upon a convoy of what we think are some renegade militants who opened fired on their very boat,” Antigha said.

He said soldiers had been deployed to hunt down the attackers.

The JTF is deployed in the region to tackle crime, including oil theft and piracy.

It was not immediately clear how many civilians were also on the boat.

The boat driver, however, escaped, according to Antigha.

MEND militants claim to have been fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenue in Nigeria.

A 2009 government amnesty offer for the militants greatly reduced the attacks after more than 25,000 ex-fighters laid down their arms.

Most of MEND’s commanders and their fighters took up the amnesty offer, but MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo said the group was never part of the deal.


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