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Cablegate: Renewed Warri Violence a Cause for Concern

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS ABUJA 001328

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EPET PINS ASEC PREL PGOV NI
SUBJECT: RENEWED WARRI VIOLENCE A CAUSE FOR CONCERN

REF: REUTERS REPORT-03AUG03 1904GMT


1.(SBU) SUMMARY: Inter-ethnic violence has erupted again in
the Warri region, this round initiated by the Itsekiris.
There have been indications that the military heretofore
passively deployed to the area are preparing to be more
assertive. This latest spasm might make the prospects for
military intervention to stop the inter-ethnic fight and to
secure oil production more likely. END SUMMARY


2.(SBU) Embassy Corporate Responsibility Officer (CRO) was
contacted early August 3 by the security manager for Shell's
Western Operating Region, which encompasses Warri. The
manager reported violence in the Warri creeks caused by
Itsekiri militants. According to Shell and, later, a
Lagos-based Reuters report (ref), Itsekiri militants attacked
three villages in the Warri area late August 2. Local
sources claimed 10-25 deaths but the total is unconfirmed.


3.(SBU) CRO on August 3 contacted Daniel Ekpedibe, a leader
of the Ijaw militant's Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities
(FNDIC), who claimed three Ijaw villages near Koko in Warri
North local government area (LGA) and one village across from
the Warri refinery in Warri Southwest LGA were attacked and
destroyed by armed Itsekiri youth. According to Ekpedibe, 15
were killed in the Warri North attacks and 10 in the attack
near the refinery. (Note: This latter attack took place
within site of Warri town. End Note) While angered by the
attacks, the militant leader asserted FNDIC would not
retaliate, but would be compelled to action should the
Itsekiri seek further damage. Ekpedibe's account of the
attacks were later corroborated by Joel Bisina (ethnic Ijaw),
head of Warri-based NGO "Niger Delta Professionals for
Development."


The War is Back
---------------


4.(SBU) Bisina disclosed that he had attended an emergency
meeting held by Ijaw militants in Warri August 3 and was
convinced that reprisals were imminent. Throughout the day,
police and military forces in Warri Town reportedly fired
shots in the air in a show of force to dissuade any attacks
within the oil city. According to Bisina, many Ijaw believe
Sapele, about 50 kilometers from Warri, is the staging area
for Itsekiri militants and may likely be a target for future
Ijaw actions. Bisina has also heard unverified reports that
the army was planning to mobilize in an operation against
Okerenkoko and Egbema, two villages in the Warri swamp
considered the bases of the militant members of the Gbaramatu
and Egbema clans, respectively.


5.(SBU) Comment: The Warri conflict has taken a sharp turn
for the worse, which will make thus far unsuccessful attempts
at a political settlement even more difficult. If the
fighting continues, at the rate of loss of life and property
damage, the military will be hard pressed not to intervene.
Yet any such intervention will raise the possibility of
heavy-handedness by the military. The Ijaw militants, not
known for self-restraint, will likely strike back soon,
notwithstanding Ekpedibe's disavowals. While Sapele may be
viewed as the base for Itsekiri militants, the Itsekiri
villages surrounding the huge Chevron tank farm and terminal
in Escravos also present attractive targets for Ijaw reprisal
attacks. These villages have been the victims of past Ijaw
exertions. Such attacks (as in March 2003) could complicate
the operations of this terminal that handles 440,000 barrels
of oil production per day.
LIBERI

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