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Clashes erupt in oil-rich Niger Delta

ABUJA, Nigeria, June 10 (UPI) -- The main militant group in Nigeria clashed with government forces Thursday in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, killing four soldiers.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed responsibility for killing four soldiers with a Nigerian joint task force Thursday.

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Jomo Gbomo, a spokesman for the militant group, said in an e-mail statement to Nigerian newspaper Next that the gunfight involved "freedom fighter patrols" who clashed with soldiers on two gunboats in the Niger Delta.

MEND said the gunfight lasted about 30 minutes. The Nigerian report adds tensions have mounted recently because of complaints over a government amnesty program.

MEND declared a formal end to an October cease-fire in early 2010. The group complains it is cut out of the oil wealth in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.

Gbomo had called on the government to justify the "waste of public funds" and warned officials against issuing any more propaganda.

MEND rejected the government amnesty offer and declared a formal end to the cease-fire in February.

"All companies related to the oil industry in the Niger Delta should prepare for an all-out onslaught," said Gbomo in February.

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