WASHINGTON, March 22 (UPI) -- Ongoing unrest in Nigeria's Delta State has slashed oil production there by 26 percent.
In 2005 the CIA ranked Nigeria as the world's 12th largest oil producer, pumping 2,451,000 barrels per day and with estimated reserves of 25 billion barrels.
Last weekend an explosion on the Tebidaba-Brass pipeline, owned by Italian multinational Nigeria Agip Oil Company, reduced the country's export capacity by 631,000 barrels a day.
The government subsequently deployed a number of gunboats to the Escravos naval base in Warri, Delta State. A multi-billion dollar Chevron Texaco natural gas project is situated in Escravos, along with a number of oil platforms and wells.
Nigeria's The Guardian reported on March 20 that the authorities are investigating whether the pipeline was deliberately vandalized or ruptured because of age. An Agip official speaking on condition of anonymity said that the rupture was caused by sabotage.
For the last three months the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta militants have repeatedly attacked pipelines and terminals and kidnapped several foreign oil workers.
Three of nine foreign oil workers abducted on Feb. 18 are still being held. At least one of the hostages is an American.
The guerrillas are demanding more control over indigenous oil resources, the release of two ethnic Ijaw leaders and more than $1.5 billion compensation from Royal Dutch Shell for environmental damage. Shell is the largest Western oil company operating in Nigeria.
U.S. and Iraqi troops implemented a massive operation to provide security for travelers making a Shiite pilgrimage to Karbala in southern Iraq for the Arba'een holiday.
No major incidents were reported as more than five million pilgrims from across the Middle East swarmed into the city.
Stars and Stripes reported on March 21 that the threat of sectarian violence has been among the highest concerns since the Feb. 22 bombing of the Shiite Askariya shrine in Samarra. Hundreds have died in sectarian violence since the attack.
Karbala security included U.S. air cover and numerous Iraqi army checkpoints along the roads leading into the city. Karbala has more than 100 mosques and 23 religious schools.
The 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team commander, Col. John Tully, noted in a press release, "Iraqi Security Forces have clearly taken the lead in providing security for the Arba'een. We are here to support them if they ask. The plan looks very good. I have no doubt that the ISF will provide the needed security to allow the pilgrims to enjoy their holiday."
Tully and other U.S. officers helped draft the security plan with Karbala officials. Security officials were particularly concerned about the situation surrounding the Masjid al-Husayn mosque, where the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Husayn is buried and where the pilgrimage culminates.
Stars and Stripes reported on March 21 that U.S. and Iraqi forces were shifted into the area from other regions while the U.S. command in Baghdad called up a 1st Armored Division battalion held in reserve in Kuwait to cover the transfers. Under "Operation Scales of Justice," those troops have taken up security positions in Baghdad.
Multi-National Corps-Iraq commander Lt. Gen. Pete Chiarelli told journalists during a Pentagon briefing, "We have kicked off 'Scales of Justice' to give Iraqis confidence that the Iraqi security forces and coalition forces, particularly in Baghdad, are there in larger numbers, are there, they see them on the street a lot more ... I think that operation is having the effect we want inside Baghdad."
In commenting on who is responsible for the rising sectarian violence, Chiarelli said: "I don't know in every case who is conducting these. I think some of them are conducted by al-Qaida in Iraq, some of these events, to make it look like it's sectarian, but there's no doubt in my mind there's retribution being taken by both sides, by groups of individuals. Some of them may be militias, some of them just may be angry young men who go out and conduct some of these horrible attacks."
By the end of the year Ghana will pass legislation to establish a Financial Intelligence Unit to fight corruption, money-laundering and terrorist financing.
Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu told a workshop on establishing the legislative framework for a Financial Intelligence Unit in the capital Accra that money-laundering legislation in line with international standards had been prepared.
Participants in the workshop included officials from Ghana's Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Ministry of the Interior, Attorney General's Office and Auditor-General's Department along with Russian, French and Spanish Canadian diplomats.
GNA news agency reported on March 20 that Baah-Wiredu said the FIU would "be responsible to advise business as a whole on fraud prevention, detection and reporting."
Baah-Wiredu said that previous legislation concerned with financial fraud, including the 1960 Exchange Control Act, the 1965 Corruption Act and the Narcotics Control Act, had become outdated.
Ghana's Ministry of Finance's Office for Special Duties, in collaboration with the Auditor-General, determined that $1.094 billion had been embezzled between 1992 and 2000, of which authorities were able to recover only $24 million.
British High Commissioner in Ghana Gordon Wetherell said that money-laundering was a major source of funding for terrorism and must be fought on all fronts.
Ghana adopting a FIU law is a prerequisite for Ghana's membership in the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering, or FATF. FATF is an inter-governmental body founded by G7 nations in 1989 to combat money-laundering and terrorist financing.
FATF accreditation would help Ghana to receive and share information on stolen funds with member countries.
Indonesian State Intelligence Agency head Major-General Syamsir Siregar has accused an Australian-backed aid group of being behind recent clashes in West Papua province.
The Townsville Bulletin reported on March 21 that Siregar did not name the group. Siregar said, "There was a non-government organization sponsoring it all. As far as I know, the mover was a local NGO, but had connections with the outside. I guess you all know (who)."
On March 16 a demonstration outside the massive U.S.-owned Freeport McMoRan Grasberg copper and gold mine led to the death of five security officers.
The Grasberg mine is Indonesia's biggest taxpayer. Grasberg is the world's largest gold mine and third-largest copper mine. In 2004, Grasberg's proven recoverable gold reserves were estimated at 1,437.5 tons.
Antara news agency reported on March 22 that in the wake of the violence Indonesia is sending hundreds more troops into Papua province.
In the past Jakarta has accused several Australian aid groups of covertly aiding West Papuan separatists, who have fought a low-level insurgency against Indonesian rule for decades.