THE NEW YORK TIMES: Nigeria Militants Set Deadline, Threaten Violence: 21 Sept 2005
Published: September 21, 2005
Filed at 9:03 a.m. ET
ABUJA (Reuters) - A Nigerian militant group from the oil-producing Niger Delta threatened on Wednesday to attack government and oil industry facilities if their leader, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, was not released by 1300 GMT (0900 EDT).
Police said Asari had been arrested over ``seditious and treasonable'' comments, in which he called for the disintegration of Nigeria, and could face prosecution.
He routinely makes such calls.
Asari was arrested in the oil city of Port Harcourt and flown to the federal capital Abuja on Tuesday. His supporters had threatened to cause ``grave mayhem'' for the oil industry within 24 hours unless they heard from their leader.
``We are asking for his release. The deadline is 2 p.m. (0900 EDT). If we don't hear from him we will destroy government property and close down oil facilities,'' Dakuro Princewill, one of Asari's commanders, said by telephone from Port Harcourt after the police made their statement.
He said some 3,000 volunteers were ready to take action, with others scattered around the delta prepared to procure arms. Asari's group had last year agreed to disarm in an amnesty deal to end a period of violent conflict with government forces.
There was no independent confirmation of the figures given by Princewill.
Police said they had taken measures to avert a breakdown of law and order in the Niger Delta.
``We wish to reassure all Nigerians and all foreigners of their safety and protection of oil installations,'' a police statement said.
Nigeria's oil minister, Edmund Daukoru, said in London it was too early to tell whether the threat to oil production from Asari's group was serioe of the city's main roads for about half an hour during Wednesday's morning rush hour, causing a huge traffic jam, a Reuters witness said.
Police peacefully dispersed the protesters, who said they were heading back to NDPVF headquarters to prepare for a bigger protest later.
A spokesman for the Nigerian arm of Royal Dutch Shell, the main oil producer in the delta which has a large base in Port Harcourt, declined to comment on security measures, saying it was a matter for Nigerian authorities.
During an armed campaign last year, Asari had threatened to wage ``all-out war on the Nigerian state,'' driving oil prices above $50 per barrel for the first time.
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