“Red Light” in Western Africa – The rising Terror in Africa Risks Energy Infrastructures and Threatens Economy

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Growing Terror Activity in Western Africa

The French intervention against Islamic groups in north of Mali – the area where the Islamic groups are strongly linked, ideologically and operationally, with Boko Haram  – accelerates the extension of the terror threat to the countries in the south, where most of the western oil facilities are located. In this context, I have to note the possibility that the Nigerian Islamist terror organizations may try to “market” their terror actions (kidnapping and acts against infrastructures) to local organizations located in the south, like the MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta). Even though there is no concrete evidence of such an operative cooperation between the south and the north, western organizations and companies acting in the region should take this into account.

MEND leader on trial in South Africa
MEND leader on trial in South Africa

Five terror groups are threatening at present the oil companies acting in Sahel and Western Africa : Al Quaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in Western Africa (MUJAO), the Nigerian Boko Haram and its separatist section Ansaru, and MEND  (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta). Leaders of all these groups have declared on their intention to harm western interests in the area, and in particular the workers and energy infrastructures of the oil companies, which are their main and preferred target.

In 6th of April 2013 the MEND organization attacked a police ship sailing at the Delta. Twelve policemen were killed in the terror act. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) took responsibility for the terror act, and threatened to continue its violence against the Nigeria government and the oil companies (mostly foreign) in the area.

The threat by MEND came as a reaction on the jailing of its leader, Okah, by a court South Africa, for 24 years. The organization`s spokesman published a press announcement, according to which “All the oil companies and the public are asked to ignore the false feeling of security that the government is trying to sell…”

These terror attacks are causing critical disruptions to the oil industry, as expressed recently by shutting down the Bonny oil pipeline, that was leading over 150,000 barrels per day !!, following repeating sabotage actions on the pipeline . At the end of 2013’ also Shell company announced on its intention to close the main Nigerian pipeline, Nembe Creek Trunkline, for an unlimited period, following sabotage actions and oil stealing in unprecedented rates last year.

The leader of the organization was sentenced to 24 years of imprisonment in South Africa, following execution of two car bombings in the Nigerian capital Abuja and killing of 10 persons. The organization was almost inactive following an agreement with the government that the leaders and many of the organization`s members will be granted amnesty (this is the reason the leader was sentenced in South Africa and not in Nigeria) and even generous payments in order to keep an “industrial peace” (in both meanings). In spite of the agreement, the organization admitted responsibility for sabotage action on the crude oil pipeline owned by the Italian national gas and oil company, ENI, last year.

Part IV: The Rising Cost of Terror

Gershuni Meir
Gershuni Meir

Author: Meir Gershuni

The author is a former Head of Division at the ISA, and at present Senior Vice President of the MAYDEX AG specializing in energy infrastructure security planning and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Security and Emergency Management at the Wingate Academic College.

Source: i-HLS ISRAEL Homeland Security