By Rafiu Ajakaye
LAGOS, Nigeria (AA)
Militants have bombed another gas pipeline in Nigeria's volatile delta region, the third major attack in the last 72 hours, heightening the possibility of a violent confrontation with the country's troops.
"At about 2:15 a.m. on Saturday, the Niger Delta Avengers blew up Nembe 1, 2 and 3 Brass to Bonny Trunk Line belonging to Agip and Shell," the militant group Niger Delta Avengers said on Twitter.
The group added that "something big is about to happen," in a veiled threat of further attacks in the region.
In separate attacks on Thursday, the militant group blew up major trunk lines operated by Chevron and another pipelines operated by the state-owned Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) after a two-week ultimatum the group recently gave the oil firms to shut down operations passed.
But the Nigerian Army has threatened a heavy crackdown on the militants. Army chief Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai said on Friday that troops will root out those sabotaging the pipelines, urging locals to help expose the militants.
Local media, meanwhile, are reporting army deployment in some of the communities in the region, including Oporoza in Delta State.
Nigeria's Vanguard newspaper said troops were sighted early Saturday in the community in search of a top militant leader – Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo – who is alleged to be behind the new uprising.
Tompolo has denied involvement.
The military has not commented on the reported deployment.
Activities of the militants have reduced oil production in the region to 1.4 million barrels per day, down from 2.2 million earlier this year.