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Tuesday, 11 April, 2000, 22:00 GMT 23:00 UK
Killings in Nigeria's Ogoniland

Police in Ogoniland, in Nigeria's troubled Niger Delta region, have clashed violently with local communities.

Security sources say five people have been killed, but the local minority rights organisation the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop) says as many as 10 have died.

A police spokesman said eight policemen were kidnapped and injured, but were later rescued.

The police say they were attempting to restore order after fighting broke out between local gangs.
Oil worker
The role of oil companies has provoked dissent in the Delta
But a Mosop spokesman said the incident was "completely unprovoked" and described it as "a huge step backwards".

He said the police had burnt down 80 houses in K'dere village, not far from the regional capital Warri, including the home of Mosop leader Ledum Mitee.

Tension

The confrontation was the first such incident in Ogoniland since the end of military rule in Nigeria.

General Sani Abacha, the military ruler in the mid-1990s, was ruthless in his suppression of dissent amongst the Ogoni people, who are one of the smaller ethnic groups in the Niger Delta.


Ken Saro-Wiwa
Ken Saro-Wiwa: Championed Ogoni rights until his execution
Their fight for political freedom and against environmental degradation won global prominence in 1995, when Mosop's founder, Ken Saro-Wiwa, was executed by the military.

Tension has been growing once again in Ogoniland for several weeks.

Mosop has accused the oil company, Royal Dutch Shell, of fomenting new divisions within Ogoni society - a charge which Shell vehemently denies.

Complicated politics

Tuesday's violence was sparked off by a dispute over a road-building project which Mosop says a firm of contractors were attempting to implement without local consent.

But politics within Ogoniland are extremely complicated and murky.

The surviving family of Mr Saro-Wiwa has fallen out with Mr Mitee and the present Mosop leadership, whom they accuse of betraying Ogoni interests.

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See also:

05 Jun 99 | Africa
Nigeria to probe human rights
19 May 99 | Africa
Nigeria Commonwealth ban lifted
30 Oct 98 | Africa
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