Soldiers, militants exchange fire in Nigerian oil region

LAGOS — Soldiers and militants exchanged gunfire in an area of Nigeria’s main oil-producing region in an incident the army said may have been linked to recent elections.

A spokesman for a military task force in the Niger Delta region on Wednesday said militants suspected to be linked to a notorious gang leader, John Togo, opened fire on a patrol and soldiers shot back. He could not say if there were casualties.

“Shots were fired on a (task force) patrol and fire was returned,” said the spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Antigha, of the incident that occurred in Delta state.

He said the task force had warned a couple of days ago of politicians in the state unhappy with the election results colluding with others “to threaten security.”

Nigeria held presidential, parliamentary and governorship elections last month. While widespread rioting broke out across the north after President Goodluck Jonathan’s election win, the Niger Delta remained relatively calm.

Jonathan is the first president from the Niger Delta, a deeply impoverished region in the south hit by years of unrest.

An amnesty deal with militants in 2009 was credited with bringing a sharp decline in violence, but sporadic incidents still occur.

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