Attacks Hit Niger Delta Pipelines

ABUJA, Nigeria -- The main militant group in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta said on Monday that it had attacked two major crude oil pipelines belonging to Royal Dutch Shell, helping push world oil prices higher.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), whose campaign of violence has cut Nigeria's oil production by around one-fifth since early 2006, said its members conducted the attacks in the early hours of Monday morning.

"In keeping with our pledge to resume pipeline attacks within the next 30 days, detonation engineers backed by heavily armed fighters ... sabotaged two major pipelines in Rivers state of Nigeria," it said in an e-mailed statement.

Shell, which operates onshore in Nigeria in a joint venture with state oil firm NNPC, said it was investigating an apparent attack on the Nembe Creek crude oil pipeline, but could not confirm whether any production was affected.

"We are conducting an overfly to determine what actually happened," said spokeswoman Caroline Wittgen.

MEND says it is fighting for greater control of the natural resources in the delta, an impoverished area polluted by half a century of oil exploration.

President Umaru Yar'Adua has pledged to try to address the root causes of the unrest in the delta by bringing development to local communities but has also said he will not tolerate the presence of armed groups in the creeks.