The attack, which took place today in the Bonga oil field some 75 miles off Nigeria’s coast, is being described as unusually ambitious for a group that has focused mainly on the creeks and swamps of the Niger Delta. In a statement released to the media, the group explained that “the location for today’s attack was deliberately chosen to remove any notion that off-shore oil exploration is far from our reach.” Shell spokeswoman Eurwen Thomas said that the attack marked the first time MEND has managed to achieve the sophisticated planning and acquire the advanced equipment required to successfully target such a remote rig.
Though Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer and a member of OPEC, most areas remain mired in poverty and plagued by pollution. Widespread resentment over inequitable revenue disbursement has spawned numerous groups agitating for a greater share of the country’s vast oil wealth. MEND is only the latest of these groups, but it has made a name for itself through attention-grabbing attacks like this one. The group’s claim to have captured an American worker was substantiated by private security officials, who said that two other workers were injured. Since the upswing in violence that began in early 2006, Nigerian rebel groups have taken more than 200 hostages.