March 14, 2011 / 8:50 AM / 9 years ago

Email warns of bombs on Nigeria oil sites, rallies

LAGOS (Reuters) - An email, saying it was sent by Nigeria’s main militant group, warned on Monday of renewed attacks on Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry and bombing at political rallies ahead of next month’s national elections.

The statement sent to media said the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a group behind years of attacks on the oil industry until a 2009 amnesty, would resume strikes in the Niger Delta oil region and launch attacks in the capital Abuja and commercial hub Lagos.

Several false threats purporting to be from MEND have been sent in the past and the group has regularly changed its email address. There have been no major attacks on oil sites since the amnesty and it was not possible to verify the authenticity of the latest email, sent from an address not previously used.

There have been several blasts around Africa’s most populous nation in recent months, including a New Year’s Eve car bomb in Abuja and attacks on political rallies with improvised explosive devices. Security experts urged vigilance.

“MEND advises the general public in the strongest of terms to stay clear from all political gatherings or meetings of any sort,” said the statement, which was signed Jomo Gbomo, the pseudonym used by the group’s spokesmen in the past.

MEND claimed responsibility for car bombs near an independence day parade in Abuja last October which killed at least 10 people and marked the group’s first attack of its kind at such a high-profile event.

MEND’s suspected mastermind, Henry Okah, was charged shortly afterwards in Johannesburg, where he lives, with conspiracy and terrorism, which he denies. He remains in detention.

Other suspected ringleaders have been arrested in Nigeria and it is unclear what operational capacity the group still has.

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