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By Gilbert da Costa
23 December 2008
The Nigerian army says militant groups are preparing to launch fresh hostilities in the oil-rich Niger Delta by training 1,000 new recruits at a camp in South-west Ondo state.
According to the Joint Military Task Force deployed to the restive Niger Delta, the new recruits are being trained "in long range shooting, handling of various sophisticated weapons and the use of explosives."
Arugbo community denies link with oil rebels
The allegation could not be independently confirmed but the Arugbo community, which was named as hosting the training camp, has denied any link with the oil rebels.
A spokesman for the Niger Delta military task force, Lieutenant Colonel Rabe Abubakar, told VOA the army had implicit confidence in its intelligence.
"We are not saying all the communities are militants. What we are saying specifically is information about putting up of militants' camp outside; it could be in the bush. But that is the name of the general area we are picking," he said.
Militant group warns it may end cease-fire
The allegation preceded a warning by Nigeria's main militant group it may end a three-month unilateral cease-fire and resume attacks on the country's oil industry.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta launched what it described as an "oil war" in the Delta, a vast network of mangrove creeks in southern Nigeria in September in response to what it said were unprovoked attacks by the security forces on one of its bases.
The group is holding two British hostages as leverage for the release of its suspected leader, Henry Okah, who is in jail for gun-running and treason. Defense lawyers say Okah suffers from kidney complications and requires treatment abroad. Nigerian authorities have rejected the request, prompting a stern rebels warning of grave consequences if he dies in jail.
There has been violent unrest in the Niger Delta, where militants have kidnapped more than 250 local and foreign oil workers and destroyed several oil and gas pipelines and other facilities. Efforts are being made by the government to increase the speed of development in the region.