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Page last updated at 16:39 GMT, Thursday, 1 October 2009 17:39 UK

Nigeria oil militant 'ends fight'

Ateke Tom
Ateke Tom says he is a freedom fighter, not an armed robber

One of Nigeria's militant leaders has given up his armed struggle against the government in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Ateke Tom told a news conference the government had offered him a pardon, and said: "I hereby formally accept the amnesty offer and lay down my arms."

President Umaru Yar'Adua, who proposed the amnesty earlier this year, said he commended Mr Tom's decision.

But other rebels are still fighting, saying they want a fairer distribution of oil wealth.

Various people claiming to speak for the the main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), have said they reject the terms of the amnesty.

The rebels fund themselves by stealing oil, kidnapping people and extortion.

The attacks are believed to cut Nigeria's oil output by some 25%.

During a previous peace initiative in 2004 Mr Tom said he had handed all his weapons to the government, but later restarted his fight.

He announced he would accept the current amnesty offer after a meeting with the president on Thursday.

The government's amnesty offer is part of an effort to end years of rebel attacks on the Nigerian oil industry.

Officials said militants who give up their weapons by October would benefit from a rehabilitation programme, including educational and training opportunities.



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