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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Villagers Say Nigeria Troops Killed Over 30 In Oil Region: A Shell company spokesman had no comment on the violence, calling it an internal Nigerian matter. ( 23 Feb 05




LAGOS (AP)--Villagers Wednesday accused Nigerian troops of killing at least 30 people and burning homes during a raid in an area of the southern Niger Delta where two villages have been battling for control of oil-rich lands.


But a Nigerian military spokesman said no raid took place Saturday - the day of the alleged killings - and the only fighting that day came when troops were attacked by unidentified assailants and returned fire. No deaths were reported in that incident, said Army spokesman Col. Mohammed Yusuf.


The troops were sent to the Niger Delta after recent fighting between two villages over oil-rich lands, and on Wednesday, residents of one warring hamlet, Odioma, said some 200 troops in several gunboats fired indiscriminately on the village and torched houses Saturday.


"At least 30 bodies have been recovered now," said Nimi Barigha-Amange, a clan chief, by phone from the region. He said he was working to tally a complete casualty list from survivors now emerging from hiding.


Only three of the village's 200 buildings were untouched by the troops, he said.


A boat driver from Odioma, Ebinimi Kimbowei, said he returned home to find his house burnt and his wife and two children missing. Kimbowei said he counted six dead bodies around his house.


Violence between rival communities laying claim to ownership of oil land and associated benefits - such as jobs and welfare projects - is common in the impoverished Niger Delta, where the bulk of Nigeria's 2.5 million barrels of daily oil exports are pumped. Nigeria is Africa's largest oil exporter.


Villagers from Odioma and a nearby town, Obioku, have fought to establish ownership of a stretch of swampland adjoining both communities. Royal Dutch/Shell (RD, SC) obtained drilling rights for the land in 1998.


A Shell company spokesman had no comment on the violence, calling it an internal Nigerian matter.

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