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Nigeria militants say they will observe cease-fire

The decision comes after the release of Henry Okah, leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND.

July 15, 2009|Reuters

ABUJA, NIGERIA — The most prominent militant group in Nigeria said it would observe a 60-day cease-fire after the release of rebel leader Henry Okah.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, said it was halting its attacks, which have crippled Africa's biggest oil and gas industry, to allow for government peace talks.

The military said last month it would observe a two-month cease-fire.

"Hopefully, the cease-fire period will create an enabling environment for progressive dialogue," the militant group said in a statement.

Okah, who was arrested in September 2007 on gun-running and treason charges, was released from detention in the central city of Jos on Monday after accepting an amnesty offer from President Umaru Yar'Adua.

Okah's freedom has been one of the emancipation movement's key demands since launching its campaign of violence against the oil sector.

The attacks have forced Royal Dutch Shell, U.S. oil firm Chevron and Italy's Agip to cut production in the last six weeks and have helped support global oil prices.

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