Militants: Ex-president is sponsor of Nigeria oil attacks

WARRI, Nigeria - A splinter group of Nigerian oil militants accuses former President Goodluck Jonathan and other politicians in the oil-rich Niger Delta of sponsoring attacks on oil installations that have slashed the West African nation's petroleum production.

Jonathan denied the allegations Monday and, through a spokesman, said the militants want to kill him.

On Sunday, the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers published names of 20 alleged sponsors of the Niger Delta Avengers, the group it broke away from, including former and current governors of southern states.

Politicians long have been accused of backing the oil militants. Southerners are accused of trying to destabilize the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north. The southerners, who are predominantly Christian, have accused politicians backing Buhari of sponsoring the militants as a ploy to militarize their region.

Buhari made himself even more unpopular in the south by suspending stipends under a 2009 amnesty program for 30,000 ex-militants who were paid to halt attacks. Buhari's government last week resumed the payments and said it is negotiating with the Movement for the Emanicipation of the Niger Delta, which negotiated the amnesty.

But that group has been denounced as corrupt by the Niger Delta Avengers, a new group responsible for this year's devastating attacks that have cut oil production by up to 45 per cent. It has refused to negotiate without foreign mediation.

The Avengers want the withdrawal of multinational oil companies responsible for massive pollution and want locals to control production.

In a separate development, residents of Jonathan's home state of Bayelsa said unidentified men dressed as priests Monday gunned down three soldiers at a military checkpoint in Nembe town. A farmer and a trader spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

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Faul reported from Lagos.


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